Prior to last August they were known as Maria or Tom or Louis or Katie or any number of other names. They are still. But, now they have a group name, thanks to a monster storm that tore apart not only their physical lives but also, in many cases, their emotional lives as well. They are the "Katrina Kids."
This past Monday, 130 of them came to Mount Vernon Estate to visit the home of America's First President and place a wreath at his and Martha's tomb. It was all part of their two day tour of the Washington area that included a stop at the White House and a VIP trolley ride of the Mall Monuments and Arlington National Cemetery.
"Many of these kids and their families have suffered very traumatic experiences and this is a way of helping them put some normalcy back in their lives," said Steve Xirinachs, president, Entertainment Division, M2000, the organization responsible for the tour.
The children and their adult chaperons were from the New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi, areas. The ones from New Orleans came from families of the Celebration Church and Crescent City Christian School. Those from the Biloxi area were all from military families, according to M2000.
"We brought them to Washington because last December First Lady Laura Bush came to the hurricane area to help us with Santa's Traveling Workshop that distributed toys to over one-half million kids," said Travis Thomas of M2000.
"We thought that since she was generous enough to come to the Gulf Coast to aid us in that program and visit their homes, we should take them to Washington to see where she lived. That was the main purpose behind this trip," Thomas said.
"All these children were affected by the hurricanes. Many are still without homes, living in trailers while the rebuilding continues," he explained.
Their first stop at Mount Vernon was at the Washingtons' tomb where they participated in a wreath laying ceremony. From there they visited the Slave Memorial, located just yards from the tomb. That was followed by a tour of the mansion.
"We contacted youth and church groups to recommend those to come on this trip. We could have brought four times this many but we had to make decisions. We looked at kids whose lives were really hit hard by the storms. Some of those selected have lost parents or other relatives as well as their homes due to the hurricanes," Xirinachs said.
Traveling by buses from their home areas they had a whirl wind trip which included a stop at the National Zoo as well as the White House and Mount Vernon. Tuesday morning they started their 18-hour trip home.
"To be able to help these kids makes it all worthwhile," said Richard Rovsek, chairman, M2000. His marketing/special event company, based in Rancho Sante Fe, California, normally services Fortune 500 companies.