OXFORD —Students in the Talawanda School District are helping out a school district in recently fire-ravaged Sevier County Tennessee.
The Talawanda Braves are accepting donations for families of the Sevier County High School Smoky Bears. Students held a drop off on Sunday, Dec. 11 to collect items for victims of the Gatlinburg, Tennessee wildfires.
The idea for the drive came from Braelynn Wagers, who is a Talawanda Brave herself.
“I’ve always love to visit Gatlinburg, ever since I was little,” Wagers said. “I love going to all the places down there and after hearing about the fires, and everyone who lost their homes, I was astonished. I really wanted to help, just to give back for everything that they’ve done for me.”
She came up with the idea of collecting donations and went to Sharon Gregory, her FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) adviser. They reached out to the FCCLA at one of the high schools in Gatlinburg, and they were extremely responsive.
There was originally only one high school the Braves were going to sponsor, but the assistant principal of the county schools in Sevier County asked the girls to spread their efforts countywide, and they agreed.
There are now two high school being sponsored by the Braves.
The donation effort began focused on high school only, but Gregory and Wagers are also accepting donations focused on all age ranges. Wagers said, “We’re trying to help the little ones, and also the adults.”
The Oxford community has been very responsive to their efforts. Within the first hour of the Sunday drop-off, the group received an entire truckload of donated items. Local businesses are stepping up and donating money for the cause. People are also volunteering to “adopt” families and provide them with everything they need.
Community members have volunteered to take trailers down to Tennessee and have volunteered their town houses so the kids can stay in the state and do volunteer work with victims of the fires.
The Braves are selling shirts proclaiming they are “mountain strong.” The shirts not only help with awareness, but the proceeds go to the donation effort as well.
The last donation drop-off will be held on Friday, Dec. 16, from 4-8 p.m. at the Talawanda High School boys basketball game. It will be a “purple out,” meaning Gregory hopes to have a majority of those in attendance wearing the “mountain strong” shirts and raising money for Gatlinburg.
Gregory added, “We just want to thank the whole Oxford and Talawanda community.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH