The floods that devastated most of Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last week have raised the concern and compassion of some children from Great Falls.
Rachel Tagliareni, 7, Casey Britt, 8, Laura Roman, 10 and Nicole Roman, 8, used one of their last remaining school-free weekends to organize a lemonade and bake sale at the Great Falls Playground on Saturday, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross' relief effort.
"We watched the hurricane when we were having a sleep over," Rachel said. "We tried to think of how we could help and we came up with this."
Rachel and Casey talked with their moms, Felicity Tagliareni and Shari Britt, and organized the lemonade sale, offering three different kinds of the summery treat on a picture-perfect day.
"Rachel said we should do a car wash but I said how about lemonade," Casey said. "Lots of people like lemonade."
Not many people would like seven- and eight-year olds washing their cars, Felicity Tagliareni said. "We have 18 gallons of lemonade ready to begin with," she said, pointing to a table laden with a back-up supply of bottled water and powdered lemonade mixes.
REMEMBERING THAT PETS need help too, Rachel said she wants to start a canned food drive, collecting pet food to send to the affected areas.
"The girls did this all themselves," Felicity Tagliareni said. "They put together the flier with their own words. We're very proud of them. It's inspired a lot of things, people around the Village Centre and over at Gillette's' [coffee shop] put their fliers right in the middle so everyone can see them," she said.
"I'm not surprised the girls wanted to do this," Shari Britt said. 'We'd been watching TV and talking about what we'd been seeing. The girls are in Brownies together, so they've done things like this, but never on their own," she said.
Once information started circulating around Great Falls, other kids wanted to join in and help. Page Tofil suggested baking cookies and other pastries. John Tofil spent Saturday selling ice cream goodies out of a cooler to help the effort.
Laura and Nicole Roman, who started Kids 4 Kids earlier this year to raise money for tsunami relief, organized a bake sale to run in tandem with the lemonade sale.
"We made sugar cookies," Laura said. "Our baby-sitter helped us make them, but we baked them ourselves. It was fun," she said.
"There will be more bake sales and we're working on organizing a bingo night at Great Falls Elementary School once school starts up again," said Silvia Roman, the girls' mother. "All the money we make today is going into the same pot for the Red Cross."
Even as the stands were being set up early Saturday afternoon, "people were coming up with trays of incredibly decorated baked goods to sell," Roman said. "This is so much more complicated than just writing a check. People are so willing to help and care so much."
THE URGE TO HELP carried over Monday, when a group of five girls and three teenagers held a bake sale to benefit the Humane Society of the United States' disaster relief efforts.
"A lot of people have been helping people, but no one's been helping the animals," said Melanie Kent, 12, who came up with the idea for the bake sale early last week. "I was looking at the Internet and saw pictures of animals that had been left behind and I decided we needed to help. I felt so bad," she said.
Her first two phone calls were to her neighbor, Alexandria Sahagun, and friend Annie Dibble, and the girls called everyone they knew to get help.
"We used the Girl Scout cookies as an inspiration," said Isabel Hefner, 11, holding a sign with pictures of deserted animals.
"Everyone helped us get ready," said Jaimie Mulligan, 11. "My dad and brother and sister taste tested everything."
A table filled with several types of brownies and cookies, pumpkin cake, coffee cake and lemon and lime bars, all selling for $1 apiece, had drawn a lot of attention in front of the Safeway and CVS in Great Falls.
"It's one thing to have a pet run away, but it's something completely different to lose an animal in a horrible event like this," said Alexandria Sahagun, 11.
The girls began their sugary work on Friday, said Annie Dibble.
"We got back from vacation and went to the store and started buying brownie mixes," she said. "We just want to raise a lot of money."
She also helped make the posters, featuring digital pictures she found online of stranded animals.
"We wanted to make the posters so people would really stop and pay attention," she said.
One patron to the girls' stand, Patti Brownstein, was happy to see the money being raised for animals.
Her daughter, Andrea Brownstein, was deployed to Mississippi last week with her Veterinarian Medical Assistance Team to help recover and care for animals of all shapes and sizes that have been displaced, injured and abandoned from the hurricane.
The girls were planning to walk around the shopping center a few times to drum up customers and were going to spend their last day of summer vacation selling baked goods until the table was empty. Whatever the girls raised, their proud parents had pledged to match.