NORTH OGDEN -- Friends and neighbors are often quick to step up when someone they know faces tragedy, but in the North Ogden community the past three weeks it was the little kids who stepped up big-time.
North Ogden Elementary School student Daniel Beutler and his family lost their home to a fire the first week of November.
The school had already started a canned food drive through AmeriCorps advisers and were bringing in cans of food each day to donate to the Utah Food Bank.
"We had a faculty meeting the day after the fire and talked about what had happened and what we could do to help," said Tiffany Taut-fest, an AmerCorps literacy tutor at the school. Tautfest said they decided on a crazy-hat day where, for $1, students could wear a hat to school, with the money going to the Beutler family to help them replace clothing and other items.
They set up collection cans and were shocked at the end of the day to find they had raised nearly $2,000.
The next week they offered the students cookies for every $1 they brought in the next Friday. Once again, the students didn't disappoint, and an additional $1,600 was raised.
While the fundraising was under way, the food drive was still going on. AmeriCorps math tutor Michelle Grant and Tautfest set up a competition, with the class that brought in the most cans for their grade groups rewarded with a pizza party.
Cans came in like crazy.
"Teachers told us that one or two boxes would be plenty when we started, and then we found we were filling four and five boxes a day," Grant said.
By last Friday the students had brought in more than 3,000 pounds of food. The school was working with Jiffy Lube, which promised to match the donation, so now the Food Bank will receive just more than 6,000 pounds of food thanks to North Ogden Elementary.
They had to take the food in two truckloads just to get it all delivered, Grant said.
She feels like the money drive for the Beutler family spurred the students to want to bring in canned food as well.
"I think it really hits home when you put a face to a tragedy," Grant said. Her children also attend the school, and she said her family was strongly affected by the Beutler's tragedy.
Daniel Beutler is in sixth grade and felt very honored that his classmates were so eager to help his family.
"I feel so happy that they would do this. I have always liked this school," Beutler said.
Beutler and his older brother and parents are living in another home while their home is being rebuilt, which will take about six to eight months, Daniel said.
North Ogden Elementary Principal Ralph Aardema was there when the school's sixth-graders presented the money to the Beutler family last Friday.
"They were deeply touched. It was very moving ... there were many tears and hugs to the unbelievable response of these students," Aardema said.
The students didn't know how much they had raised until just before the $3,600 was handed over to the family, because they didn't want it to affect the money that was being brought in.
"To see someone in your own neighborhood go through this kind of tragedy, it just brings out an overflowing amount of passion," Aardema said.
Chanse Tremelling, a sixth-grader in Daniel's class, said he also thought of kids who didn't have food when he was bringing in his food donations. "I felt bad for those kids that didn't have anything," he said.
Sixth-grader Ashley Potokar said she couldn't believe it when she saw students bring in $20 and more than 30 cans of food.
"It just made me happy," she said.
There are 637 students at North Ogden Elementary.