Students in The Vanguard School’s Service Club are doing their part to raise funds for the Australian Red Cross.

Senior Sheridan Kraus, founder and president of the Service Club, said a keychain fundraiser was launched in response to the bushfires that have devastated the southern continent. With help from club sponsor Brady Washington, the group created keychains depicting a koala hugging the Australian continent, which are being sold to the student body for the first half of February in an effort to raise funds.

The keychains adorned with the image, created by Miguel Benavidec, were duplicated and laminated for sale.

The fires that began in September 2019 have claimed as much as 27.2 million acres of land, an area almost the size of the state of Virginia, with smoke visible from space. The fires have also claimed the lives of an estimated 480 million animals and 33 people.

“When I (read) in the newspapers about the fires, I really wanted to do something to make a positive impact,” Kraus said. “I felt drawn to help the people in Australia and share the experience with other people my age, to show them that they, too, can make a difference, that together we can make a ‘big’ difference.”

Kraus brought the fundraiser idea to her club, which enthusiastically responded.

“I asked [them] what they would like to do, and then [someone] suggested a fundraiser, to help support [the Red Cross]. We brainstormed things to sell and then we came up with these keychains.”

Kraus said the goal of Service Club is to make a positive difference in the world, be that in the local community, school community, or nationally/internationally.

Other projects include sending letters of encouragement to troops overseas.

“We also like to encourage kids in the school community, because high school can be tough and we want to encourage our peers,” Kraus said.

She has a passion for international relations and issues with global impact and plans to do work in Belize this summer.

“My goal in doing this fundraiser is not only to raise money for a good cause, but also to show kids my age what an impact that they can have, and that they can help people outside of their own world,” she said.

Kraus shared her compassion and sympathy in relation to Australia’s current state: “I would love to take a trip [to Australia] and see what they’re doing to rebuild. A few years ago, with the Waldo Canyon fires, I helped plant some trees to get them restarted because my neighborhood is right up there. So, I would love to see how Australia does that and if I can help in any way, that would be truly amazing.”

The June 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs claimed two lives and 18,247 acres of land.

The Service Club has a list of ideas that may see future potential.

“We don’t have any [other] fundraisers planned right now, but we are hoping to do more local service projects, possibly making chew toys for the Humane Society animals or Jared boxes, a shoe-sized box that you fill with toys for hospitalized kids.”

The club aims to inspire a positive and moral contribution to the world and is dedicated to encouraging others to do the same.

Kraus expressed her admiration for having the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of people. “Many people have worked together to make this possible, along with the club, my amazing sponsor Mr. Washington, has been at almost every meeting and has helped organize the entire club.”

The club has created 400 keychains, which will be sold through Feb. 14 to students at the charter school, with the proceeds to be donated to the Australian Red Cross in support of the bushfires.

For more information relating to the Australian Red Cross, donations and volunteering, visit redcross.org.au.

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