by Tim Troglen | reporter
Hudson -- Even before Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on Nov. 8 with a massive storm surge, devastating winds and torrential rains, worldwide relief organizations were mobilizing to fight the impeding disaster.
At the same time, an eighth-grader at Hudson's Seton Catholic School was forming his own plan.
"I knew that everyone needed help there," said Bennett Kavlick, 13, of Aurora. "I felt terrible and I wanted to find a way to help."
Kavlick found a way.
He organized a father vs. eighth-grade boys basketball game, which helped raise more than $7,000 for typhoon relief.
The money is enough to supply more than 500 people with food and water for 30 days, according to Bennett's dad Jeff, who is also one of the head basketball coaches at Seton. Bennett's sister Mia, a second-grader at Seton, also helped with the event, Jeff said.
Bennett, whose mom Christine was born in the Philippines, had been to the Philippines with family members on three mission trips. So the student's thoughts were on those he had met and helped during previous trips, as he watched the storm approach the Pacific islands.
"I was wondering if there was anyone I knew or had helped that had been harmed," Bennett said.
As the storm made landfall, Bennett watched the news reports of the devastation. "I thought about how terrible it was and how much had changed," Bennett said about the pictures. "I saw some pictures of before and after -- and they were completely wiped out."
BENNETT thought of the basketball game because it was something fun that people could participate in. "That was the first idea that came to my head," he said. The students won 45 to 43.
More than half of the money was raised before the game via a fundraising site, Bennett said. About 100 people attended the Nov. 17 game and about 40 boys and dads participated. Just under $2,000 was raised at the game.
Bennett's goal was to raise $2,500 for relief. "Our ending total was about $7,000," he said.
The money will be given to Gawad Kalinga, which is working to build "a nation empowered by people with faith and patriotism; a nation made up of caring and sharing communities, dedicated to eradicate poverty and restore human dignity" and ending poverty for 5 million families by 2024.
The family is no stranger to the work of Gawad Kalinga.
Christine's father attended college with its founder, Antonio Meloto. Her father is involved with the organization and the family has volunteered to help during mission trips.
Response to the game and fundraising efforts among the Seton school community was "amazing," according to Principal Karen Alestock, who was a celebrity coach.
"I am so proud of Bennett for initiating a service activity truly reflective of his character and living the mission of Seton Catholic School," Alestock said.
ONCE THE idea was formed and the website set up, "it spread like wildfire," Jeff said, and the " donations just poured in." Contributions ranged from $20 to $250, with the average being about $75.
Filipinos will remember this storm the way Americans remember the Great Depression, Jeff surmised.
"You look at Hurricane Sandy -- it was a bad storm, but it wasn't as bad as this one. New York and New Jersey, with the infrastructure the world is envious of, was crippled for a month," Jeff said. "And they are still trying to recover from it a year later."
Before the typhoon struck, Jeff knew several Filipinos who owned two or three sets of clothes, and had no running water or electricity, he said.
"When you have something like this, you are left with just the clothes on your back -- no money, no credit cards, no nothing," Jeff said. "It's so different than what we would have here."
Bennett, who said it felt "amazing" to help, wants to help those who lost everything. "It's just a great feeling to be able to help others and know that even though it may be something small, or something big, you're making a difference," he said.
Bennett wanted to add one more thing, a quote from the Rev. Dan Schlegel of Church of the Holy Angels in Bainbridge from a Nov. 17 Mass. "Anyone can make a difference," Bennett quoted. "Every act done with the greatest love can make a difference."
For more information on Gawad Kalinga or to make a donation visit www.gk1world.com.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4183