Hillsborough elementary school student aids California fire victims


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As the detrimental “Camp Fire” continues to persist throughout Northern California, people all over the country have been looking for ways to aid the victims.

Included in this concerned group is a young boy from Hillsborough.

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After seeing images of the fire’s devastation to the town of Paradise, California, five-year-old Benjamin Steinhauser was inspired to find a way to reach out to those affected, specifically school children in the community.

“Ben saw on the news when the fires were happening in California, what was happening in the city of Paradise and that their school burned down and that their kids didn’t have homes and how hard the area was hit,” said Mandi Steinhauser, Benjamin’s mother. “It was later that night when he was watching the news that he said, ‘Mom, we have to do something,’ and later that night he said these children need help.”

As Benjamin’s concern for the people of Paradise persisted, Steinhauser knew something had to be done.

In letting Benjamin decide on an initiative to reach out, he chose to design and write holiday cards for the students of Paradise Elementary School (PES), who not only lost their school, but their homes and neighborhoods as well.

Alongside his eight-year-old sister, Madelyn, Benjamin began using materials such as glitter and construction paper to craft the cards for students, but as the project began, Steinhauser said that he wanted to do more.

“From there, he wanted all his classmates from school to get involved and wanted every student at PES to receive a greeting card from Hillsborough,” she said.

After Steinhauser pitched the idea at a Home School Association meeting, she said the teachers and adminsitrators were more than supportive of Benjamin’s idea.

With help from his fellow classmates at Woodfern Elementary School as well as multiple friends from his taekwondo class and Kindergarten enrichment classes, Benjamin soon had a team of youngsters working together to ensure that every student at PES would receive a card.

As part of the school’s other charitable causes, Benjamin’s influence on students through his holiday card project coincided with the school’s efforts to make cards for the Wounded Warrior Project as well.

Given Benjamin’s efforts to get his school community involved with his project, Steinhauser noted that it left an impression on multiple students whose parents reached out to her to acknowledge her son.

“I’d get emails and text messages from parents whose kids were going home and telling them about what Ben did,” Steinhauser said. “He’s really teaching people to care. It struck conversation and it opened kids’ eyes.”

After weeks of designing cards and collecting them, Steinhauser reached out to school officials at PES, who she said were moved by Benjamin’s project.

“I spoke with a representative from PES on Dec. 3, the day the returned to school, and they were so warm to the idea that a five-year-old across the country was so touched,” she said.

Although Steinhauser said the project impressed many people in the Hillsborough community, she felt it was representation of Benjamin’s caring nature as he also enjoys playing football, baseball and cooking outside of school.

“My job as a parent is to support my children’s dreams, so when he has this dream to reach out and make a difference in other people’s lives, I had to help make it happen for him,” she said.

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