By Tara Cavanaugh, AAPS News Service
Huron High School student Andy Hsaio has family in Japan, so when last year’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck, he was spurred to action.
The 15-year-old collaborated with his older sister, a college junior, to raise money for the earthquake victims.
“There were already so many fundraisers going on in just a matter of days,” Hsaio said. “We thought we could not only try to raise money but bring awareness to this cause.”
Luckily, Hsaio’s family in Japan escaped the earthquake. But Hsiao and his sister still wanted to help in some way. They were inspired by a Twitter account, Cheer Tohoku, which was created so people could send out supportive messages. Many Twitter users sent photos of themselves holding handwritten signs with words of encouragement.
“I thought that was a really cool project that Twitter was doing. We wanted to join into it,” Hsaio said. “We thought we could sell some t-shirts and have people wear them to show how much they care about Japan.”
They created t-shirts that said “Go Japan” in Japanese and “Sending our thoughts” in English. He snapped photos of the t-shirts and sent them to the Twitter account.
Hsaio also used the shirts as a fundraiser. Thanks to some startup money from his parents and a discounted printing rate from Ascott Corporation, the t-shirts only cost around $4.50 to print. He sold them for $10 each.
He asked friends from Pioneer and Skyline high schools to spread the word, and soon, he was even getting requests for the shirts from people who didn’t live in Ann Arbor.
Eventually, Hsaio said sales of the shirts tapered off. He sent $2,436 to the Tokyo Rotary in July 2011.
“Not only did it raise money for Japan but it also brought awareness in Ann Arbor about how much we should care about Japan,” Hsaio said.
Hsiao, who visits Japan every summer, hasn’t forgotten about the earthquake victims. He’s already thinking about doing another fundraiser, this time for a school in Fukishima.