One morning last month a man drove a dusty SUV into Santa Cruz, California. He was fleeing a northern California wild fire was consuming entire towns. His SUV was packed with personal belongings and his three small dogs. He was trying to find his wife and had not slept in three days. Could anyone direct him to the nearest safe highway? Chyna Darby helped him get his bearings, but as he drove off, her 11-year-old daughter Reese couldn't stop thinking about the man, and others who had lost everything. How could she help? She and her friends started planning a bake sale. It took on a life of its own. Now many students a Pacific Elementary School were soliciting donations, making posters and booking entertainment. Chyna remembers, "The tables weren't even set up on Pacific Avenue before members of the Santa Cruz community were buying goods and donating money. In two ways, the bake sale earned over $1,800 for victims of the northern California fires.

                                                                                               Courtesy of Pacific Elementary School
But it had a larger impact than just donations for fire victims. It helped the children talk about and understand loss, in a positive way. They talked about it during class, recess and lunch. Teachers at Pacific Elementary used the fundraiser as a learning tool. Kids had to calculate profits after expenses for the sale. They had to decide how to mail gift cards to victims. They had to discuss and vote on where the funds should go. But most important, the bake sale give students a hands-on way to feel empathy for others and become empowered to help -- all while having fun.