Layton Christian Academy students donate to Japan relief efforts

May 4 2011 - 9:42pm

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(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) Red Cross Emergency Services Director Fred Henderson (center) holds up a check he and Preparedness Health and Safety Representative Jimmie Rivera (left) accepted from student leader Andrew Griffin (right), 18, on behalf of all the students at Layton Christian Academy on Wednesday. Students raised over $1,000 for the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami relief effort.
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) Japanese exchange student Kohei Masuyama, 17, addresses students about the impact of the tsunami on his family at home.
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) Student leader Andrew Griffin, 18, talks to his classmates at Layton Christian Academy.
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) Red Cross Emergency Services Director Fred Henderson (center) holds up a check he and Preparedness Health and Safety Representative Jimmie Rivera (left) accepted from student leader Andrew Griffin (right), 18, on behalf of all the students at Layton Christian Academy on Wednesday. Students raised over $1,000 for the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami relief effort.
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) Japanese exchange student Kohei Masuyama, 17, addresses students about the impact of the tsunami on his family at home.
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) Student leader Andrew Griffin, 18, talks to his classmates at Layton Christian Academy.

LAYTON -- When Kohei Masuyama first heard about the earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, he did not take it too seriously.

After all, he experienced several earthquakes in his hometown of Shinagawa, just outside Tokyo.

But when he started watching the video clips on the Internet, he got worried. After calling his family, he was relieved to hear they were safe.

"In Tokyo, it wasn't as bad compared to the other areas," said Masuyama, 17. "But it was still pretty affected by the earthquake."

The National Police Agency has confirmed 14,755 deaths in the earthquake and resulting tsunami, while 5,279 people were injured and 10,706 people are still missing.

Masuyama wanted to do something to help, so he approached Layton Christian Academy's student body President Andrew Griffin with an idea.

What resulted was a check for $1,182.05, which the school presented to the American Red Cross during a school assembly Wednesday.

"It's hard for me to hold back the tears," said Fred Henderson, an emergency services director who accepted the check from LCA at the assembly. "It's amazing to think about what these kids have done."

Henderson said the American Red Cross has donated $133 million to the relief effort in Japan so far.

Fortunately for Masuyama, the worst thing that happened to his family was that his mother, a schoolteacher, had to stay at the school overnight because the subway was not running.

When the earthquake hit, Masuyama's mother took her students outside of the school in case the building collapsed. Masuyama said his mother could hardly stand up because the ground was shaking so violently.

Masuyama is one of six foreign exchange students from Japan going to school at LCA. Those students are not the only ones at the school who have ties to Japan.

"A lot of us have friends and family over there for military purposes, so we all wanted to help," said Griffin, an 18-year-old senior.

First, student body officers began collecting money from other students.

While that worked well, Griffin said, they wanted to do something bigger, so after the new plan was cleared with school officials, students who donated $2 were allowed to wear jeans and a red T-shirt, rather than the school uniform, to school on a specific day.

"I think they did an outstanding job of coming up with everything that they needed to do," said Principal Tony Hembrock. "They were looking at all their opportunities and resources to raise money."

Nearly all of the students, from kindergarten through high school, participated in the fundraiser. They wore red again Wednesday to symbolize what they had accomplished.

Griffin said he hopes the fundraiser will be an example of what the students should be doing.

"We are a Christian school, and that's what we are all about."

Masuyama will complete his year at LCA this month and return to Japan on May 29. When he leaves, he will have learned many lessons, but perhaps none will be bigger than the lesson he learned in the past month.

"We never know when and where tragedy will hit," Masuyama said.

"It's good to know that, no matter what, people get together and help each other."

Watch the assembly here.

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