It was a whirlwind trip for some 70 members of the various Riverside-Brookfield High School choirs. Five days last April in exciting, vibrant New Orleans.

A performance at the D-Day Museum, a workshop at Loyola University, a private concert at Preservation Hall in the city’s legendary French Quarter.

“The kids were mesmerized by New Orleans,” said RB Choir Director Diane Marelli. “It was a really special trip.”

So when the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina started getting clearer in the wake of the Aug. 29 storm, choir members were quick to act.

“I just fell in love with the French Quarter,” said RB choir member Karissa Strnad. “At first I was relieved when reports said the hurricane would hit east of the city. But once I heard about the flooding, I knew I had to do something, and I felt the choir should do something as well.”

She approached Marelli about starting a fundraising campaign to aid the hurricane victims, and the wheels were set in motion.

At the same time, faculty and students in the new School of Environmental Education (SEE) program for freshmen also leapt into action.

“The teachers had called each other and considered asking students if they wanted to be involved,” said Suzanne Shanklin, an English teacher who is part of the SEE faculty team. “We started talking about the what was happening there, and the students voiced an interest in helping.”

Students from the choirs and from the SEE program then joined together to mount a school-wide fundraising campaign to help hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast. On Thursday and Friday of last week, choir members and SEE students roamed the RB cafeteria collecting money from fellow students. In their two days, they had collected some $1,650.

RB earth science teacher Lee Mishkin donated $100 to the cause, Shanklin said, while John Grice, chair of the Fine Arts Department, has pledged any proceeds he receives from selling prints of photos he took while accompanying the choir to New Orleans last year.

“This program teaches stewardship [of the environment], and we thought it would be a perfect time for the kids to step up,” Shanklin said.

In addition to the fundraiser, the SEE teachers adjusted their teaching plans on the fly, focusing their efforts on hurricane-related topics. Students began reading numerous articles about the disaster and completed writing projects on the subject.

Meanwhile, SEE biology teacher Jame Holt, created a model of the New Orleans basin and used various liquids and chemicals to illustrate how dangerous the flood waters were. Math teacher Jenny Waldock added a lesson collecting data and statistics related to hurricanes, which students then analyzed.

The Riverside Township Jaycees, in conjunction with other Jaycees chapters in the region, are collecting items for hurricane relief. Bottled water, non-perishable food items, blankets, towels, clothing shoes and personal hygiene products are being collected at the following locations:

Emanuel Bible Church, 6630 Ogden Ave., Berwyn; St. Francis of Assisi Church, 15050 S. Wolf Road, Orland Park; and St. Dominick’s Church, 440 E. Briarcliff Road, Bolingbrook.

Additionally, the Jaycees have set up a relief fund for monetary donations with Riverside Bank. Donation checks can be made out to the “Riverside Township Jaycees Hurricane Relief Fund” and can be mailed or dropped off at:

Riverside Bank, 17 E. Burlington St., Riverside Ill. 60546, ATTN: Jaycees Relief Fund

All monetary donations will go directly to the Red Cross.

For additional information, please contact Mark Schwinn at 795-6738 or