Just days after hearing former suburban Chicago resident John Maas broadcast his plea for aid to help hurricane victims in Mississippi on a Chicago TV station, St. Mary School students and parents answered the call.

Fifth-grade students, led by Alexis Dryier, Hannah Spohnholtz, Sarrah Spohnholtz and Ashley Hough, asked Principal Nancy Taylor if the school could do something to help out Haas, who said he was leaving the Chicago area with any supplies he could muster last Saturday.

The result was a food/supplies collection drive at the Riverside school last Friday that pulled in some four vanloads courtesy of school families, who were notified of the drive by letter last Thursday. Dryier’s husband, Ron, also persuaded the Gulf Packaging and the Ken Don Co. of Markham to donate three skids of cardboard boxes.

“I have to tell you that since last week I’ve had all kinds of people calling asking how they could help,” Taylor said.

Dryier’s mother, Pam, said that her daughter and classmates got the idea to hold a collection for hurricane victims after she and Alexis saw Maas interviewed on TV. Maas, a former Hickory Hills resident, sought aid from Chicagoans for the town of Ocean Springs, Miss., located just east of Biloxi.

The Dryiers responded by driving to the New Life Community Church near Midway airport, which was collecting supplies for Maas.

“We made our initial drop-off at New Life,” Pam Dryier said. “When we saw the warehouse and saw what they needed, they decided to make it a class project. They asked permission from the principal and it blossomed from there.”

Throughout the day Friday, parents dropped off water, non-perishable food, diapers, paper products and over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofin. At the end of the school day the boxes were loaded into parents’s cars for the drive to New Life Community Church.

After school, the parents and kids loaded the supplies into four vans and drove down to New Life Community Church. The supplies were then unloaded and put into one of two tractor trailers waiting at the site.

Although Pam Dryier said neither she nor the kids ever got to meet Maas, “It was just one of those things that grabbed at my heartstrings.

“With just three days’ notice that school whipped together and the parents really stepped up.”