Morgan Seckinger missed math class Thursday and happily so.
Yet the Ebenezer Elementary School fifth grader had a big hand in the large numbers on the oversized check on the school’s stage.
Morgan’s Dixie Wish campaign, a fundraiser for the Effingham County victims of the Imperial Sugar refinery explosion, ended as the four families each collected a check for $2,450.25. Seckinger’s father Paul was one of the recipients, along with Justin Purnell, Troy Bacon and Betty Fields, widow of Michael Kelly Fields.
Morgan’s campaign — selling charms of the Dixie Crystals logo for Crocs shoes — began not long after the sugar refinery where her father, Purnell, Bacon and Fields worked erupted in flames on Feb. 7, 2008.
“To me, it’s been such a blessing to be a part of all of this and to see these families receive the money we worked so hard to collect,” said Stacie Ortiz, Morgan’s teacher who helped her start the campaign. “The biggest thing that amazed me, when we had the first benefit, (was) the amount of people who came and the donations that were given over the cost of the charms. Just to see how much love this county shows for one another and the support they give to the families and to the victims.”
The victims and their families who received the checks Thursday continually expressed their gratitude for what Morgan and her classmates had done.
“It’s a big blessing to me. It’s just wonderful,” said Betty Fields. “These kids are just great.”
Said Bacon: “It makes me feel good to have somebody to care about you, that people still show love. For the little kids, I’m very thankful and grateful. I thank God to be here today, and I bless all the kids.”
Morgan Seckinger and her classmates sold more than 2,000 Dixie Crystal charms, with orders and donations coming in from all the country — much to their surprise and their delight.
“A lot of people didn’t even request charms,” Ortiz said. “They just wanted to send donations to the families. That, to me, was amazing. I had no idea they would call or try to get into contact with the school. I started getting e-mails from all over the place.”
Morgan said she would like to continue to raise money for people, but she’s glad to be taking a break from it now. She too was overwhelmed at the outpouring from people near and far.
“It made me feel very excited and happy that people would want to help and not just from here, but from all over and they would want to help me raise money and buy the Dixie Crystal charms.”
Her grandmother Karen Seckinger, a teacher at Springfield Elementary, moved to Augusta to keep watch as Paul struggled to survive and recover.
“She’s still that same little girl,” Karen Seckinger said, “but we’re really proud of the way she held up and continued to go on, even while we were gone all those months in Augusta. We had a lot of family members who helped out. And of course, Ms. Ortiz was here for her and she became part of our family. I think God put her here for us during the year. I really do.”
Paul Seckinger had no idea as he lay in his bed at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital what his daughter was doing to help the other families affected by the blast. He didn’t find out until months later about the Dixie Crystals charms and the fundraising effort Morgan was spearheading.
“I’m just blessed,” he said. “Words can’t explain it.”