WEBSTER COUNTY, Mo. — Students in the Strafford School District felt they needed to do something.
“You know that everybody around them is just feeling every emotion,” Ryker Venosdel said. “You know, it’s a just really sad thing to happen.”
Just 15 miles away, in the Marshfield/Elkland area, tragedy struck earlier this week.
Authorities say 12-year-old Bella Smythe, 13-year-old Danny Smythe, and 16-year-old Ethan Smythe were all students in Marshfield and died in the fire.
“The family has lost so much, so we just want to give everything we can to them,” Vendosel said.
“We do a hat day a lot, it’s pretty easy. Everybody likes to wear hats,” Vendosel said. “We’re able to really promote it well, so that was, that was our number one go-to. Everybody’s going to wear blue and teachers that can like pay $5 to wear jeans just to try to get as many donations as we can.”
Students, if they want to wear a hat tomorrow would pay $1, with all the funds going to the Smythe family.
“We’re looking out for the hearts of everyone in Marshfield and that family especially,” Evelyn Comstock said. “We just all thought that they needed that support and they needed that extra help.
The two say the money raised may not be much but want to help however they can.
“We’re not expecting a ton of donations, but just anything that anyone can help,” Comstock said.
“We just know that every bit counts,” Venosdel added.
Buckets will be placed throughout the school and bags dropped off at teacher’s rooms on Thursday, hoping the community will pitch in, not just for the family dealing with tragedy, but a recovering community.
“I could not imagine how those students are feeling. Anyone who had been friends or even known those kids in that family, like if something like that happened at Strafford, it would be devastating and something that would take a while for everyone to grieve and to process and to heal from,” Comstock said.
The superintendent of Strafford Schools says selflessness is a principle embraced by the staff and student body.
“We certainly strive to engage our community and engage the communities around us as well,” Dr. Mark Hedger said. “We want our students to realize how important the idea of service is.”
Dr. Hedger gives all the credit for this effort to his students.
He adds with his connections to the Marshfield area, the community in mourning hits close to home.
“We definitely want to do everything we can to support them,” Dr. Hedger said. “That includes our prayers and our help in any way with donations or anything that we can do to help. We certainly want to be a good neighbor and do everything that we can. Having that little personal connection does make it hit home a little bit, a little bit more.”
The fundraising efforts will be throughout Friday and those interested can also donate at the district’s main office.
OzarksFirst spoke to Marshfield Superintendent Mike Henry over the phone this afternoon.
Henry says the fundraiser is a testament to the area’s heart and compassion and applauds the effort. A GoFundMe has amassed over $98,000 for the Smythe family.