On Memorial Day, 2019, a reported 19 tornadoes tore apart Dayton, Ohio, and its suburbs, causing catastrophic damage to businesses, schools, and homes. After being struck by winds up to 140 mph, several schools were still rebuilding this fall and approximately 750 families were still waiting to move back into their homes.
Add to that Memorial Day devastation, the Aug. 4 mass shooting that killed nine and injured 17 in downtown Dayton. That one-two punch left Madeline Rahe, a Culver Girls Academy senior from nearby Troy, wanting to do something to help the community heal. But what?
She spent her summer working at Fifth Third Field, the home of the minor league baseball Dayton Dragons. She was working at the stadium, which is just two blocks from the scene of the shooting, that night. She had left for home about 90 minutes before the shootings occurred. “I didn’t find out about it until I woke up the next day,” she said.
Instinctively, her first thoughts involved helping the victims of the shooting. But when that idea didn’t come together, her mother suggested teaming up with Crayons to Classrooms, a Dayton nonprofit organization that works with local teachers to stock their classrooms and provide lower income children with needed school supplies.
Rahe said a community call had gone out that 10,000 backpacks would be needed to outfit students. Crayons to Classrooms set its goal at filling 8,000 backpacks with school supplies for children ranging from kindergarten through 12th grade. Each grade level would receive different items. Rahe’s project became filling 250 backpacks for the seventh and eighth graders at Northridge Middle School.
Crayons to Classrooms works with local businesses, donors, and volunteers to gather excess school supplies. It normally operates a free store teachers can visit to pick up the items they need. But because of the level of need, additional volunteers were being sought to fill the 8,000 backpacks.
“Everything went very quickly,” Rahe explained. “I talked with the CEO of Crayons to Classrooms over the weekend, got approval for the project on Monday, and by Tuesday I was working with my mom to get the backpacks up here.”
Rahe’s mother, Catherine, brought the items up from Dayton. On Sunday, Sept. 8, Rahe and 11 of her CGA friends spent the afternoon in the Moncrief Lounge filling the 250 backpacks. Each pack received three folders, three notebooks, a loosefit binder, a pack of pencils, a sharpener, an eraser, two glue sticks, a highlighter, and a pack of four pens. On Monday, her mother delivered the backpacks to the nonprofit.
“We could have done more,” she explained, “but that was all my mom could fit in her car – and she drives a Suburban.”
After their work, Rahe heard from the CEO thanking everyone for their efforts. The girls also received a special post on the organization’s Facebook page. And she was notified the backpacks were distributed “three or four weeks ago” when Northridge Middle School finally re-opened.
“It felt really good to do something,” Rahe explained. “Dayton has been hit pretty hard.”