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Heroes Come in All Sizes


“I wanted to help Japan,” says 7-year-old Elizabeth Perry, “it was very, very hurt.”

Elizabeth talked to her mom, who then talked to her friends’ moms. It wasn’t long until 20 children were peddling laps around their Bristow, Virginia, neighborhood lake for a Japan Relief Bike-a-Thon.

Elizabeth and her friends raised a staggering $1,545.

The Bike-a-Thon

Posters, emails and word-of-mouth drew a crowd to the lake that afternoon after school. Balloons, snacks and a spirit of service kept the crowd there.

From a designated starting point, kids rode their bikes, or ran, around the lake—as many times as they could. Students got a sticker for each completed lap; Japan got financial assistance.

Zac Oliver, one of the older volunteers at age 10, biked around the lake 31 times, and then ran around once more just for good measure. That’s about seven miles. Sporting fading purple streaks left over from Whacky Hair Day at school, this straight-A student volunteer says he is looking forward to becoming a lawyer and might work in the legal department at the Red Cross.

Annabelle Perry, 5 years old, biked one lap and ran two more. Her favorite toy, a stuffed monkey named Monkea, was with her every inch of the way. For fun, Annabelle likes to volunteer and to climb on jungle gyms.

Why They Help

Bike-a-Thon participants had one goal—to make a difference.

Last year Elizabeth’s Daisy Troup raised funds for, and then put together, 100 medical kits that went to Haiti following that nation’s devastating earthquake. So it was natural for her to want to help the people affected by the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami.

Also, images of the tsunami were imprinted on the children’s minds. Zac talked about the video of a child running from oncoming water, and how help came just in the nick of time. Elizabeth recalled the rescue of a dog that had floated for days, without food, on the roof of a collapsed building.

Like volunteers many times their age, the Bristow, Virginia, children saw a need and found a way to contribute to the solution.

Delivering their Contribution to the Red Cross

Alarms were set for sunup on the day the Oliver and Perry families drove to American Red Cross national headquarters to deliver the proceeds of their Japan Relief Bike-a-Thon.

The trip was especially poignant for Renii Oliver, whose aunt and cousin in Yamamoto-cho, Japan, were lost in the disaster, along with any sign of what had been the family home. She also has aunts, uncles and cousins in the hard hit areas of Sendai and Watari.

Bike-a-Thon organizers said they selected the Red Cross because they were certain that money contributed to the American Red Cross would make it through the chaos and into the hands of the people needing relief from the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami. Both the Perrys and the Olivers are familiar with the Red Cross through their military experiences.

As thank-yous were being said and contribution receipts given, Jenelle Perry smiled at her daughters and said, “We’re glad our kids are willing to work for it. I’m impressed.”

“We’re very happy our children helped Japan,” Oliver added, putting her hand on her son’s shoulder. “I hope other people around the world will help them too.”

Perhaps volunteer Elizabeth Perry, originator of the Bike-a-Thon, rollerblader, first-grader and aspiring veterinarian, best summed up the mood of the day. When asked what caused her to think of the Bike-a-Thon, she confidently replied, “Because helping people is very good.”