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Pointers Run Elementary fourth-grader designs animal T-shirts for Ellicott City flood recovery

Amanda Wang, 9, and her mom, Zhiling Li, prepare their hand-drawn animal T-shirts for sale Thursday at Pointers Run Elementary School's Family Fit Night.
Amanda Wang, 9, and her mom, Zhiling Li, prepare their hand-drawn animal T-shirts for sale Thursday at Pointers Run Elementary School's Family Fit Night. (Staff photo by Andrew Michaels)

A swimmer and clarinetist, fourth-grader Amanda Wang dove deeper into her artistic skill-set last summer to draw animals on T-shirts to raise money for those affected by the Ellicott City flood in July.

After donating $566 to the Ellicott City Partnership and Howard County Chinese School in October, the Pointers Run Elementary student, her brother, Arthur, and their friends readied another batch of colorful T-shirts on Thursday at the school's Family Fit Night in hopes of exceeding their $1,000 goal. Amanda said $100 was donated to a Howard County Chinese School fundraiser for Ellicott City, while the remaining balance was given to the partnership.

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Dozens of colorful T-shirts sat neatly folded on a table outside the cafeteria next to a clothing rack, where Amanda's mother, Zhiling Li, hung a select few to draw in customers. Donning a blue eagle T-shirt, Amanda said other hand-drawn animals included lions, tigers, panthers, cheetahs, eagles, dolphins, giraffes, owls and horses.

Shirts were sold for $15 in sizes ranging from youth small to XXL. Previous fundraising events were held at the Howard County Library System's Savage Branch and Howard County Chinese School.

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"We actually have our own designs," Amanda said. "Some of the designs are very simple and some are very hard. Some of them only take about 20 minutes to draw, but others take up to a half an hour or an hour."

Colorful T-shirts depicting dolphins are displayed for sale Thursday at Pointers Run Elementary School's Family Fit Night.
Colorful T-shirts depicting dolphins are displayed for sale Thursday at Pointers Run Elementary School's Family Fit Night. (Staff photo by Andrew Michaels)

When floodwaters ripped through Main Street on July 30, Amanda said she began thinking about all of the people who had to move to higher ground and leave behind their businesses, homes, belongings and family pets. The 9-year-old said she was eager to reunite families with their pets and decided to create unique T-shirts to support the effort.

Using some T-shirts around her house, Amanda said she tested her idea by pinning a lion design onto a clipboard, placing it behind a shirt and tracing the outline with a black fabric marker. Although she started with pictures online, Amanda later tweaked each design to add her own personal touch.

"A lot of my close friends wanted to help me," Amanda said. "They came over to my house and helped me draw them. I really like drawing lions and tigers."

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Amanda said she enlisted help from 10 friends, including brother and sister Alex and Ella Jiao, 8 and 10; Jessica Li, 10; and Lauren Ackison, 9. Her team of T-shirt designers has completed more than 100 shirts, selling nearly 70 shirts in the last five months.

Maureen Sweeney Smith, executive director for the Ellicott City Partnership, said she was amazed by Amanda's dedication, along with hundreds of other children who have stepped up to help people in need after the flood. Smith said the partnership has received donations from cub scout troops across the county as well as individual children who raised money with lemonade and hot chocolate stands.

"I was just so impressed with the kids and their willingness to help. It was fantastic," Smith said. "We are just amazed at the empathy these kids have with flood victims and their willingness to get out there and raise money."

Chao Wu, Columbia Association board member and father of two, said he was one of Amanda's first customers to buy lion T-shirts for his family.

"I think it's amazing for her, as a young lady, to get some friends and classmates and start this from scratch," Wu said. "It's great for little kids because they love animals."

Arthur, 12, said he was proud of his sister's accomplishment and excited to be a part of her team. His specialty was drawing the horses and panthers.

"I think it's really good that she's helping our community. I like supporting her in doing this," said Arthur, a sixth-grader at Clarksville Middle School. "It's fun to draw them. I just like the feeling that every T-shirt we draw can help Ellicott City."

(Left to right) Ella Jiao, 10; Lauren Ackison, 9; Amanda Wang, 9; Arthur Wang, 12; Alex Jiao, 8; and Jessica Li, 10, prepare to sell their hand-drawn animal T-shirts Thursday at Pointers Run Elementary School's Family Fit Night.
(Left to right) Ella Jiao, 10; Lauren Ackison, 9; Amanda Wang, 9; Arthur Wang, 12; Alex Jiao, 8; and Jessica Li, 10, prepare to sell their hand-drawn animal T-shirts Thursday at Pointers Run Elementary School's Family Fit Night. (Staff photo by Andrew Michaels)

"It's fun," Lauren added, a fourth-grader at Pointers Run Elementary.

Amanda's T-shirts have become a popular fad at her elementary school, said principal Lenore Schiff, who also bought a T-shirt. As soon as other students saw Amanda's shirts, she said, they wanted one of their own.

"I just have to applaud Amanda because she did this all outside of school on her own initiative," Schiff said. "I do like to think that some of the values that she has learned at Pointers Run through our Development Assets Program inspired her to do this."

Schiff said the program teaches children life skills such as conflict resolution, assertiveness, empathy and respect.

At the end of the evening, Amanda said the T-shirt team raised more than $200. Taking customized orders from her classmates, Amanda remained hopeful in raising more than $1,000 before too long.

"A lot of my teachers and principal actually heard about the T-shirts and wanted to buy some," Amanda said. "It feels like everyone really appreciates them and likes them."



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