WESTPORT, Conn., May 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Save the Children marked the solemn anniversary of a series of deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma one year ago and thanked the "champions for children" who prevented the impact from being even more devastating.
"Our thoughts and deep condolences go out to all the families who lost loved ones, including 19 children, in the tornadoes last May," said Kathy Spangler, Save the Children's vice president for U.S. programs.
In all, 48 people died and thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged by tornadoes that struck central Oklahoma on May 19, 20 and 31 of last year. Two elementary schools and two child-care centers full of children were also totally destroyed, and many more damaged.
"These tornadoes have been incredibly tough on kids in many ways. Thousands of children were thrown into turmoil when they lost loved ones, the places where they lived and learned, and their sense of security," Spangler said.
Champions for Children
"We want to thank the unsung heroes who did all they could to protect countless children in the tornadoes' path, and those who have stood by kids in the difficult year since," she added. "Without them, the disastrous toll on children could have been far worse."
Save the Children posted a sampling of the "champions for children" the organization has encountered through its Oklahoma response and recovery programs at www.savethechildren.org/Oklahoma.
They include a child-care worker who saved a 4-year-old girl from being sucked away by the tornado (click here for video), a school counselor who has helped suicidal elementary school students, a nurse who refused to abandon a laboring mother as the tornado destroyed the hospital around them, a junior high student who raced younger siblings to safety just in time, child-care providers who put lifesaving emergency plans and a cleverly revamped shelter in place, state officials who strengthened protections for children with special needs, and a Girl Scout leader who became a lifeline to a girl who survived a flash flood—but lost five family members who did not. Find their stories here.
Children still coping with the disaster, in need of protection
Save the Children has served more than 18,500 Oklahoma children and caregivers since the tornadoes struck, and its long-term recovery work continues. Emotional recovery programs in schools help children build essential coping skills and work through the fears, anger and depression many have faced since the tornadoes. "Get Ready Get Safe" programs help child care centers, schools and families become bettered prepared for disaster.
Last week in hard-hit Moore, Save the Children brought a special guest to an elementary school destroyed last year and two of the 35 child-care centers the organization helped restore after the tornadoes. In her first appearances as Save the Children's new ambassador, Lassie, the iconic collie known for protecting children, helped lead kids through fun "Get Ready Get Safe" activities.
New animal ambassador surprises tornado survivors
Lassie also helped surprise emotional staff and parents at the Agapeland Learning Center with a groundbreaking for a new safe room Save the Children is supporting. The tornado destroyed the center's former location with dozens of staff and children inside, including the heroic worker who saved the 4-year-old girl.
"While there is still more to be done, many children in Oklahoma are safe today because schools, child-care centers and families had regularly practiced emergency plans," Spangler said. "We urge all Americans to get prepared to protect children now. You never know when a disaster can strike."
Find resources to protect children from disaster at www.savethechildren.org/GetReady
Save the Children invests in childhood – every day, in times of crisis and for our future. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
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