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Fund helps Santiam Canyon students replace items lost in wildfire

A $25,000 donation from UnitedHealthcare has boosted the fund and its capability to help kids on the long road ahead.
Credit: Debbie Fawcett
Debbie Fawcett's 16-year-old daughter Abby

There’s a big effort underway to bring kids in the Santiam Canyon some joy after they’ve gone through so much. They’ve had to deal with loss from the devastating fire in early September and also the difficulties of distance learning.

But thanks to the Santiam Canyon Needy Kids Fund, students in the Santiam Canyon School District are getting to replace some of the things that were important to them.

Debbie Fawcett’s daughter is one of those students. 

“She was able to go onto Amazon and order all these toys that were delivered to our RV, and she thought that was the greatest thing,” said Fawcett.

Her daughter Abby is 16 years old and has special needs. The fire that swept the Santiam Canyon destroyed her family’s home.

“We just basically ran for our lives,” Fawcett said.

She said they didn’t have any warning and didn’t grab much. Abby was only able to take a couple stuffed animals with her.

Now, they live in an RV and shed.

“My daughter does her schoolwork in the shed with me also and it’s been really difficult,” said Fawcett.

She said Abby has struggled with loneliness since the pandemic began, even more so after the fire.

Credit: Debbie Fawcett
Debbie Fawcett's 16-year-old daughter Abby

“At least in March she had her house. She had her room. She had all of her things, so she still had those comforts even though she was isolated,” Fawcett said.

“Most 16-year-olds are dating or getting their driver’s license. So her friend group has moved on and she’s been left behind. There’s nobody that’s 16 that still wants to play with toys.”

But she said the toys make life a little better for her daughter.

Angela Rasmussen, the Santiam Junior/Senior High School principal, came up with the idea behind the fund. She said the big idea is to allow the kids to decide for themselves what they need.  

“I think that’s really important for our kids, who have lost so much, to know that the community really cares about what they have to say about what they lost and what they’d like to replace,” said Rasmussen.

She said kids in the district are still scattered all over, displaced after losing their homes.

When given the choice, some kids choose essentials like clothes or even shampoo. Others opt for toys.

Recently, the Needy Kids Fund got a big donation from UnitedHealthcare.

“[They] donated $25,000 to our Needy Kids Fund, and that changed everything,” Rasmussen said.

Now, more kids like Abby will be able to choose more things that’ll help make life a little easier.

“To see her happy is everything to me,” said Fawcett.

Fawcett is also a school counselor. She said things like the Needy Kids Fund help keep kids connected, engaged and help them feel like people care about them.

“For me as a school counselor, I’ve seen my straight-A students struggling […] You’ve got everybody that’s struggling,” she said.

Rasmussen said the plan is to allow kids to choose what they want at multiple points in the year. The next distribution will be in the spring.

She said part of the reason distribution will happen throughout the year and in the years to come is because the rebuilding process is expected to last years and kids will continue to need support.

If you’d like to help, you can contact the Santiam Canyon School District and ask to donate to the Needy Kids Fund. Rasmussen said people can either write a check or donate with their credit cards over the phone.

“100% of those funds go towards those items of value and interest for our students,” said Rasmussen.

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