Pediatric cardiologist Capt. Daniel Shmorhun stops by Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda before leaving for Haiti, to accept stuffed animals from the students to deliver to the Haitian children being treated on the USNS Comfort.
Pediatric cardiologist Capt. Daniel Shmorhun stops by Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda before leaving for Haiti, to accept stuffed animals from the students to deliver to the Haitian children being treated on the USNS Comfort.
When third grader Katya Shmorhun heard her father was being deployed to Haiti on a medical mission, she didn't want him to leave, but she soon realized it was a great opportunity to help Haitian children who lost everything in the earthquake.

She told her father, Capt. Daniel Shmorhun, a pediatric cardiologist, that she wanted to do something for them. After some brainstorming, he said he might be able to take a few, small stuffed animals with him on the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship that is providing humanitarian and disaster relief to Haiti.

The next day, Katya introduced the idea to her teacher and classmates at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda. They agreed to help out, and soon the entire lower school had heard about the project and decided to join in. Kathryn Bonner, the head of the lower school, the teachers and staff mobilized the effort overnight. Lynn Shmorhun, Katya's mother, said the school's lobby was full of new or lightly used stuffed animals. Some students even brought entire bags of stuffed animals to donate, she added.

A statement from Stone Ridge said when Dr. Shmorhun saw how many stuffed animals were donated, he was "deeply touched." Lynn said her husband didn't know if he would be allowed to bring the stuffed animals on board the ship because of a one duffle bag per-person limitation, but he decided to try anyway.

It worked, Lynn said, because she saw the boxes of stuffed animals stowed away in a room with the ship's surgical equipment on WUSA9 news. Lynn said her husband will give a stuffed animal to each child he treats.

Katya said the reason she wanted to help the Haitian children is because "some of them don't have as much as we do ... I think they will like them (the stuffed animals) because they have gotten injured, and they lost everything in the earthquake. We can give a little bit to them so they'll be happy."

Katya donated cheetah, dolphin and polar bear stuffed animals to Haitian children.

Students at St. Patrick School in Rockville feel especially connected with the children of Haiti, said Christie Anne Short, a fourth grade teacher at the school who volunteers at a mission in Haiti. For the past two years, St. Patrick students have donated numerous items to the mission in Haiti where Short volunteers.

Last fall, students collected hygiene products - toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, deodorant and shampoo - to send to the mission. Their hygiene products arrived a day before the earthquake struck. The village where the products were supposed to be delivered was spared any major damage, and the hygiene products were distributed to children in Port-au-Prince instead.

One day last week the students also dressed in red and blue - the colors of the Haitian flag - to show their solidarity with the people of Haiti. At the end of this week, students will hold a doughnut sale to benefit Haiti relief efforts.
Short said when the students at St. Patrick's heard about the earthquake, they were at first, "quite sad. There was a lot of conversation and a lot of prayer ... but now it's taking a turn, and they are putting their energy into helping fund-raise."

Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville also held a dress down day on Jan. 15. The school received donations from students, faculty, staff and alumni to benefit Haiti. As of Jan. 21, the school raised $7,000. Victor Shin, assistant principal, said the students at his school are "very generous. They were literally emptying out their wallets."

He added "Our students get it ... (the Haitians) are still our brothers and sisters in God's eyes. They see them not as Haitians, but as people who just need help."

DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville also raised money for Haiti. In two days last week, the school raised more than $5,200 to donate to Catholic Relief Services.

Julie Penndorf, campus minister for liturgies, retreats and faith formation, wrote in a post online, "DeMatha has proven over the last two days that its heart is bigger than anyone ever expects."

On Jan. 20 Annunciation School in Washington held a dress down day - a day when students pay money to not wear their school uniform - to raise money for Haiti relief efforts. All grades participated in the event and each student donated at least two dollars. Many students brought their loose change, and some parents wrote checks to support Haiti. The school raised about $1,200 that will donated to Catholic Relief Services.

Cyndy Boemio, the school's administrative assistant, said this was a "great outcome, considering we have such a small school."

St. Matthias Apostle School in Lanham, St. Mary's School in Landover Hills and Mount Calvary School in Forestville also held dress down days. St. Matthias raised about $2,400 and St. Mary's School brought in $1,342.

Archbishop Neale School in La Plata held a dress down day on Jan. 27. They are donating their funds to Catholic Relief Services for Haiti relief efforts in the name of the pastors of the seven Southern Maryland parishes that support Archbishop Neale School.

Students at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Bethesda have a dress down day and bake sale planned to benefit Haiti. They are in contact with Catholic missionaries in Haiti so they can provide the materials they need.

St. Bernadette School in Silver Spring held a rosary prayer service on Jan. 20 to ask the Lord for his mercy on the suffering and the dead in Haiti. During a collection called "Mites for Haiti," St. Bernadette students will also bring in donations that will go to Catholic Relief Services for Haiti.

A fourth grader at St. Raphael School in Rockville organized a bake sale for Haiti. It was held last weekend and goods were sold after each Mass. The children are also praying daily for the people of Haiti.

St. Peter's School on Capitol Hill raised $2,400 between the parish and school communities. The money will be donated to Catholic Relief Services. The school is also in the process of planning a partnership with a school in Haiti, and they hope to soon send them "something cheerful," said the principal, Jennifer Ketchum.

Our Lady of Mercy School in Potomac will sell paper hearts to students. They will write a prayer on the hearts for the people of Haiti, and the proceeds will be sent to help relief efforts there.

St. Jane de Chantal School in Bethesda is selling red "Hope for Haiti" bracelets. The student council will sell them and read facts about the crisis during morning announcements.

Students at St. Anthony School in Washington are currently running a two-week raffle called "Let's Help Haiti!" They sell tickets every day, and many students have contributed their own Christmas or birthday gift money to buy tickets. At the end of the first week, the school had raised more than $1,000 for Haiti.

Cardinal Hickey Academy in Owings will hold a Lenten collection called "Change for Haiti." Last year, the school raised $3,000 in change to help their sister parish and school in Haiti - Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Teachers at St. Michael School in Ridge created a spirit chain to benefit Haiti. Funds raised at their Catholic Schools Week bingo will also go to Haiti relief efforts. Students also participated in a candlelight prayer service for Haiti that was "very moving and beautiful," said Lila Hofmeister, the principal.

At Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Solomons, Haitians are remembered every day during morning prayer. On Jan. 28, eighth grade students held a bake sale for the victims of the earthquake.

St. Camillus School in Silver Spring will take up a special collection at their Catholic Schools Week Mass for Haiti relief efforts. On Jan. 27, Holy Redeemer School in College Park held a dress down day and the proceeds will be donated to Haiti. The school has also been saying prayers for people in Haiti during morning announcements.

St. Michael the Archangel School in Silver Spring has two activities underway to support Haiti relief efforts. The school will hold a fundraising drive, and a flea market in conjunction with Catholic Charities and Centro Tepeyac, a pro-life resource pregnancy center in Silver Spring. The fundraising drive is "being conducted entirely by the students, many of whom are from Haiti," said Charles Eames, St. Michael's principal.