Little Vail Valley hands help Haiti |

Little Vail Valley hands help Haiti

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyHoyt Benson raises his hand during practice for the Help for Haiti Now benefit concert Friday at Red Hill Elementary School in Gypsum. Benson initiated the fundraiser, which takes place Wednesday.

GYPSUM – Hoyt Benson could barely believe it.

While watching TV one day, he saw a ruined palace and destroyed homes with people stuck in the rubble.

“The pictures were horrible and I was like ‘Aaaaah. What is that?'” the 7-year-old recalled. “Then my mom told me it was an earthquake in Haiti and I thought of what to do.”

Benson’s mission was clear.

The second-grader walked into Red Hill Elementary’s principal office and said he wanted to start a fundraiser for Haiti.

“I was totally impressed because most students in the younger grades are not thinking outside their personal space or their daily routines,” Principal Jill Pappas said. “He’s thinking way outside and I thought: He’s going to be a leader.”

Red Hill second graders plan a benefit concert Wednesday night in the school gymnasium. They’ll be collecting first aid supplies and shoes for earthquake survivors.

“I wanted to help Haiti because I know they had a horrible earthquake and I want them to be happy because the Earth is helping them,” Benson said.

Music teacher Shaina O’Sullivan said she was touched by Benson’s desire to help. She thought a concert would tie into lessons on Black History Month. Students will sing traditional hymns like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “We Shall Overcome” at the concert.

As word spread around school about the concert, other grades decided to pitch in. Fifth-graders will read essays on Haiti, fourth-graders will hold a bake sale and third-graders will serve as ushers, Pappas said. Gypsum Creek Middle School’s jazz band will perform as well.

Little helpers

On a break from singing “Lean on Me” Friday at Red Hill, Stephani Anson explained why she wants to help Haiti.

“I feel really sorry for Haiti because they’re probably in pain right now,” said the 7-year-old, who was wearing money-print pajamas for pajama day.

Some may argue that second-graders are too young to fully grasp the earthquake. Indeed Red Hill students may have a simplified picture of the disaster, but their sympathy and their desire to help are real.

“I know there’s a lot more people in Haiti than there are second graders,” 7-year-old Ian Mayne said. “But we can still make a big change by donating money so they can get their town back up.”

Shayden Jones, 8, said she feels really sad for Haiti.

“This concert will make them feel happy,” she said. “I think the concert will convince people to volunteer and send money to Haiti and maybe they’ll get back on their feet.”

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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