By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
For students at Lindsey Middle School in Portales, a talk Friday with a former NFL player topped off a month-long fundraiser that netted $1,400 for a charity.
The sixth-graders raised the money for A Journey for 9/11, the organization former New York Giants defensive end George Martin started to help with medical expenses of first responders who have health problems from service during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
As a thank you, the students had an Internet video conference with Martin. Six students asked him questions about his motivation for starting the organization, his most memorable moment and more.
“It was good to see him and see how he felt about things and meet a true hero,” student Peyton Chavez said. “He may have been a professional athlete, but he’s a true hero through what he does with the first responders.”
Sixth-grade Micah Terry said in response to her question, Martin told students the bravery of the first responders working to save people inspired his walk.
Later, when a student asked about his most memorable moment, Martin recalled the time a woman brought her grandchildren to meet him during his walk, so they could see a hero, she told him.
The story of Lindsey’s fundraiser actually begins in March 2008, when Martin passed through Portales and Clovis on his cross-country walk to benefit the first responders.
Curry County Sheriff’s Deputy Glenn Russ, husband of Lindsey teacher Dana Russ, heard about Martin and walked with him for a few miles. He later attended a benefit dinner in New York and watched Martin present $250,000 checks to three hospitals.
Then, in September, Glenn and Dana Russ participated in a 13-mile commemorative walk in New York with A Journey for 9/11. When Dana Russ returned to class, the students asked about the organization and wanted to know why they weren’t allowed to contribute.
With teaching students to be empathetic on her mind, the teacher set a school-wide goal of $911, to commemorate the day of the attacks. In about a month, the approximately 220 students brought in $1,400.
“It makes you feel good because you know it’s going to people who need it, and we can do a lot of good things with the money we raised,” Terry said.
Dana Russ said the school will sponsor a specific first responder and send “this hero” student letters thanking him or her for the service to the nation. She planned the fundraiser in hopes of having the letters and money to the person by Thanksgiving.
“This was our way of saying thanks and being grateful for the steep sacrifice that first responders have made,” Dana Russ said.
Glenn Russ said he asked Martin to do the video interview.
“This was the best thanks I could give these kids for putting this effort in,” he said.