Hernwood Elementary School's staff, parents and students rapped, rocked, twisted and slid to the tunes of Elvis, Chubby Checker and Kool and the Gang -- and picked up about $800 dollars -- at the school's fifth annual "hop" to help sick children at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
This year's event was held Thursday night. The fund-raiser got its start in 1993, after kindergartner Amanda Bradle died of kidney cancer. That inspired music teacher Anita Rozenel to mobilize children to help peers with serious health problems.
That first dance in Randallstown spawned a countywide program that now involves 80 schools, 76 of them in Baltimore County, called Kids Helping Hopkins, which raised about $58,000 in its first two years and brought thousands of books, toys and materials to the children's center.
Each school contributes in its own way -- a fund-raising variety show, a read-a-thon, handmade cards and books. The program also provides educational opportunities, such as allowing students to shadow a doctor for the day.
It's a symbolic year for the hop -- and an emotional one -- because Amanda's kindergarten classmates, who have helped their teacher develop the program, are now fifth-graders and preparing to graduate. Devin Tillman, 10, who was a friend of Amanda's, said he would be back.
"I've learned to work hard and care about other people as much as you care about yourself, because they're the ones in pain," Devin said.
"What Amanda did was very special to people at the school and the Johns Hopkins Center. She had a very strong will and tried very hard to pull through. She cared about more people than herself. She had a very big heart."
Rozenel, who volunteers at Hopkins -- where a child who later died of leukemia nicknamed her "the music lady" -- planned the first hop just after Amanda died, not only to raise money but "to help us heal," she said. "We were hurting. We were in such pain."
Then, in September 1994, Rozenel started the larger organization with a mass mailing to county schools, telling Amanda's story and promoting the importance of producing "caring, compassionate people in our schools," she said.
Back where it started, at Hernwood Thursday night, the gym walls were adorned with paper jukeboxes and 3-inch-long paper carrots, similar to those guests could purchase for 25 cents apiece, that symbolized the theme, "Hopping for Hopkins."
Pub Date: 4/05/97