Kerri Harris, a Grayslake resident who teaches special education at Fremont Intermediate School in Mundelein, grew up in northern New Jersey, spending her summers at the Jersey Shore.
"When Hurricane Sandy made its way across the state (in late October) it destroyed so much of what I knew growing up. Luckily my friends and family were all OK, but there were so many who lost everything. There were children the same age as my students who had lost all sense of normalcy," said Harris, 25.
As the holiday season approached, Harris wanted to involve her students in a project to bring some comfort to New Jersey students who were impacted by the hurricane.
Kerri's father, Michael Harris, said his daughter went on-line to identify an elementary school in Point Pleasant, NJ, "one of the places hardest hit and also a place she cherished in her past."
Harris wrote to the New Jersey school, offering the aid of her Fremont students.
"She wanted to do something to help and at the same time tie in teaching her students the value of helping others," said Michael Harris.
Together, father and daughter came up with the campaign, "Back on Your Feet," to provide clean new socks for children who were continually walking through flood waters.
"Empowered, I took the idea to my class," said Harris. "I explained to them what had happened and that people lost their houses, cars, schools, toys, and yes, even video games!"
"I asked them how it made them feel and they said sad, and they asked what we could do."
Harris and her teaching assistant Justine Brown, of Mundelein, got the collection drive going by bringing in a few bags of socks to show the students how easy it was to help. Word spread and donations of socks, gloves, hats, scarves, clothing and toiletries soon began pouring in from other classrooms.
Harris, Brown and another teaching assistant, Eileen Falconer, sorted and packed all of the items to get them ready to ship.
"In every box there are personal notes from my students," said Harris. "We filled five boxes each weighing at least 30 pounds."
A parent in the district even offered to pay for the shipping cost. The boxes of supplies are expected to arrive in Point Pleasant any day.
"I feel great knowing that my students and I were able to help those suffering from great loss. I hope that my students were able to understand the importance of giving to others," said Harris.