Ponaganset planning firewood drive, essay contest in lead-up to 9/11 tribute

Ponaganset planning firewood drive, essay contest in lead-up to 9/11 tribute

GLOCESTER – An effort to raise awareness of the upcoming 9/11 memorial and traveling museum at Ponaganset High School in April includes a fundraiser, a blood drive and a firewood collection to benefit those in need.

PHS teacher Chris Stanley created the event and committee behind Ponaganset Remembers: A Tribute to the 9/11 Fallen. Accompanying events will help spread the word about the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit, a traveling museum planned for April 28-30 at PHS.

PHS received a $10,000 grant to create a 9/11 Memorial Garden and to bring the traveling museum to the campus for the 20th commemoration of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

Stanley said high school students were not yet born on Sept. 11, 2001, and often do not understand the implications of the life-changing events. For Stanley, 9/11 is a teachable moment, one he holds dear to his heart as a captain at the Warren Fire Department.

Among the events planned to raise awareness of the traveling museum is an essay competition on the theme, “Why We Should Never Forget 9/11.” The top three winners will receive cash prizes of $300, $200 and $100.

The first-place essay will be read during the 9/11 Memorial Garden groundbreaking ceremony on April 29.

Essays are due by March 25 at 2:25 p.m. and should be no longer than 500 words. Students in grades 7-12 should contact Stanley or Charlie Stockwell at 401-710-7500 for more information.

PHS is also holding a cordwood drive from now until March 29 to help heat the homes of those in need. Stanley said the school is collecting split and seasoned wood and that the drive is a good way to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 in a “positive, life-affirming way.”

Firewood can be dropped off at PHS on Wednesdays and Fridays from 7:50 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wood can be no longer than three feet in length.

Stanley said a little healthy competition helps to accomplish the mission to collect wood while calling to mind the true heroes of Sept. 11.

“By emphasizing community service and focusing on lifesaving activities, the challenge is unique among other high school programs,” he said.

He added that many people lost their lives on 9/11, and the project will serve as a memorial. Stanley said the Memorial Garden will feature a Callery pear tree as a nod to the “survivor tree” that stood after the attacks.

On March 3, the school held a blood drive challenge on campus that pitted students and staff against the local police and fire departments to see who could donate more blood. Stanley said it was a unique opportunity to engage young donors and community members as part of a tribute to the 9/11 attacks.

Blood donations, he said, have been lower during the pandemic, partly due to the lack of school blood drives normally held in the fall.

“We’ve always relied on the fall to provide a boost in blood donations from high school and college blood drives that are large and well-attended, but very few of those are happening,” said Kara LeBlanc of the Rhode Island Blood Center.

Stanley said the winning group will receive a plaque and bragging rights for the next year.