The school had held a walk-a-thon a few years earlier benefitting survivors of the December 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. A native Sri Lankan school parent personally delivered the money to the Mother Teresa Foundation in Sri Lanka and also brought backpacks, clothes and educational materials for the local children collected by Robert Bellarmine families. “When we brought up the walk-a-thon for Japan idea to our parents and students, they were ecstatic to do it again,” said Shirley Rufus, school secretary. “Each classroom got a piggy bank --- and the banks were not enough because we had to get bottles to fit in all the coins.” By April 15, the day of the one-mile walk from the school up to Sunset Canyon Drive and back, the students had collected over $1,700 with hopes that the final amount would reach $1,900. The money was sent to the archdiocesan Holy Childhood Association office, headed by Father Ken Deasy, who leads the school’s faculty retreats every year.After beginning the day with Mass, members of the 210-student body gathered in the school courtyard for a flag salute and band music by fellow students. It was announced that fifth graders were the winning walk-a-thon fundraisers, earning a free dress day and pizza lunch for collecting the most coins amounting to $382.64. Eyes were drawn upward when white doves were released, flying over and out of the courtyard. The students were then led in some stretching warm-ups by their P.E. coach, before leaving on the walk in an orderly fashion by grade, accompanied by teachers and volunteer parents.Hiking up the sidewalk incline, the children, many wearing white t-shirts with red suns patterned after the Japanese flag, waved to passing cars, urging drivers to “Honk for Japan.” Most classes had handmade signs with messages that said “We care for Japan,” “Japan’s in our Heart,” and “We support Japan.”“I really like this walk because it’s helping Japan,” said sixth grader Pranitha Prasad, who was concerned for those evacuated from their homes near the tsunami-damaged reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Japan’s northern Pacific coast. “We thought this walk might help the Japanese to get their homes back and help them get well,” added Prasad.Volunteer parent Ronnie Da Motta, 36, pushing his two-year-old son, Enzo, in a stroller while accompanying his student-son, Christiano, on the walk-a-thon, told The Tidings he and his wife try to help out whenever they can for “any type of cause that comes up like this.... You have to do what you expect your kids to do: be an example.”Christiano’s grandmother, Lily Chu, was also on the walk. “It was important to be here today to support the people in Japan and to show the Christian mission of helping each other and also to support my grandson,” said Chu.“We really want to help Japan’s people so that they can pay for schools and food,” said Jennifer Kassir, sixth grader. “It’s nice to help them.”Her sixth grade homeroom teacher, Peggy Nardoni, added: “I think it’s just great that the kids are aware that there are people around the world who need our help and support. That’s why we’re all here.”School parent, Joseph Lauth, said attending the walk was an important way to respond to Japan’s current crisis. “I don’t know if these kids know the whole scope of what’s going on, but they see what they see on TV: the suffering and the people who are homeless and hungry,” said Lauth. “Anything we can do to show our support is greatly needed.”After returning to campus and the free lunch donated by Del Taco --- bean and cheese burritos for a Lenten (no-meat) Friday --- student council president, Jade Teetsel, shared with The Tidings her message for the Japanese. “Always keep your heads up. We’re here to help and support you. You can get through natural disasters if you have the help of your community and the world,” said Teetsel.She added that she was very proud of the students. “We earned more money than I thought we would, and we walked a good distance,” said Teetsel.Michael De Guzman, student council commissioner of finance, noted that Japan’s earthquake and tsunami has had a global impact. “When I heard what happened to Japan, it really shocked me because almost everything we had, because of the high technology, was from Japan.“We didn’t know what was going to happen to some big brands like Samsung or AT&T,” said Guzman. “Now that we donated for Japan in our school, it will make a big difference in Japan so at least it will give them a boost in earning money and raising their business up.”Sixth grader, Ara Hernandez, shared a wish for Japan, where 25,000 have been confirmed dead or missing in the disaster and 80,000 have been evacuated from the area around the stricken nuclear plant on the northeast coast. “I hope that all the kids from Japan in that disaster are all well and everyone who lost their families may find happiness in the future,” said Hernandez. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0513/japan/{/gallery}