Fourth-grader spearheads Hurricane Matthew relief effort
Posted 10/27/2016 05:17PM

The majority of Triangle-area residents were largely untouched by Hurricane Matthew in early October, save for some sustained power outages and the occasional downed tree. But drive an hour or two east, and it was a different story, with inland flooding forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and at least 26 North Carolinians losing their lives. 

To give their 9-year-old daughter, Cadence, some sense of the devastation, Bill and Kim Adamson showed the Durham Academy fourth-grader photos — of streets that looked like rivers, of vehicles submerged in the floodwaters, of emergency workers rescuing residents caught off guard by rising rivers days after the storm hit. 

Cadence had never seen images like that before, at least not of devastation so close to home.

“I felt really sad because I saw a lot of photos of houses half underwater and a lot of people in boats and on their roof,” she recalled. “I thought that only oceans could get into houses in a hurricane, but I discovered that when the water is really high, rivers can do that, too.”

So Cadence decided to do something — collect cleaning supplies to help flooding victims get their lives back in order once they are able to return to their homes.

Thanks to the generosity of Lower School families, in just a five-day span, her efforts have been remarkably fruitful: 64 rolls of paper towels, 510 trash bags, 45 packages of disinfectant wipes, 86 rubber gloves, 67 sponges, nine gallons of Clorox, 13 containers of bug spray, 17 disinfectant sprays and cleaners, eight packages of toilet paper and a mop. The collection drive will run through Friday, Nov. 4, in the alcove by the admissions office. Families from any division of DA are encouraged to join the effort. (See a list of needed supplies below.)

“It makes me feel really excited,” Cadence said of the steady stream of supplies dropped off in the Lower School hallway. “It makes me happy that I can help someone.”

Her mother said the idea to collect supplies was 100 percent Cadence’s.

After learning about the devastation spanning all the way from Haiti up to the Carolinas, the fourth-grader ran the idea by her parents, then set about putting her plan in action. She wrote a letter to Lower School Director Carolyn Ronco and Head of School Michael Ulku-Steiner, asking if they would allow her to enlist fellow Lower School families’ help. The administrators quickly agreed, with one request from Ronco — that Cadence show a video she’d created to inspire donations at a Lower School assembly and then answer a few questions about the effort before the entire student body. 

Cadence said she wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about speaking in front of 300-plus students and faculty — but the cause was so important that she swept aside any butterflies in her stomach. She explained to her classmates why the collection was so important and detailed what kind of supplies families should bring in.

“I had learned that a lot of people had already donated food and clothes,” she said in a subsequent interview, explaining why she chose to collect cleaning supplies. “I thought, what if a lot of water is in their house, and they when they get the water out of their house, there’s a lot of mud and mold? I thought cleaning supplies would help with that.”

Cadence has researched where the items will be most helpful, and she — along with her parents and younger sister, Delia — will likely deliver them to Red Cross relief workers at the conclusion of the drive.

For Ronco, it was inspiring to witness a student following through with such a big idea at such a young age.

“I just really appreciate that she had the idea, and then she had the initiative and the motivation to follow it through. She wrote the letter, she created the iMovie, she made the poster, she spoke at assembly, and she’s picking up the items,” Ronco said. “We can all talk ourselves out of following through with our ideas, but she kept that motivation going, and it paid off — and it will pay off for the people who receive these cleaning supplies.”

It’s the first time that Cadence has undertaken a project of this scale, but it doesn’t surprise those who know her.

“At first she was hesitant about it and wasn’t sure that people would actually bring stuff, and then for her to see the amount every day that people have contributed, her heart is just overflowing,” Kim Adamson said. “She is just so caring and so aware of others and their feelings.”


Hurricane Matthew Relief: Cleaning Supplies Drive

- Drop off items through Friday, Nov. 4, in the alcove beside the admissions office (Preschool/Lower School building)

- Requested items:

  • Sponges
  • Mops
  • Clorox/cleaning wipes
  • Disinfectants, Windex, other cleaning soaps
  • Trash bags
  • Plastic bins
  • Bug spray
  • Rubber or plastic gloves
An independent, coeducational day school, pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
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