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Holland Patent 'Tornado Squad' hits the road

By WKTV News

HOLLAND PATENT, N.Y.(WKTV) A bus full of Holland Patent High School students hit the road at noon on Sunday to make an estimated 24 hour trip to Birmingham, Alabama.

The 26 students and 5 chaperones are part of the 'Tornado Squad' heading south to help tornado devastated Alabama.

Holland Patent substitute teacher Eileen McCann said she got the idea to organize the effort when she saw the destruction in Alabama on TV, 'just saw it on the news and thought those poor people, maybe we could help, maybe we could do something."

More than 250 people lost their lives when a series of tornadoes struck Alabama in late April of 2011.

Thousands of homes were destroyed, and McCann and her crew will be helping the Birmingham Habitat For Humanity build homes, "they're contracted to build 500 new homes and they've got 90 completed so far, so they need our help."

McCann says many Holland Patent High School students were interested in making the trip, but in the end 26 kids are taking the 1100 mile journey.

Parents said goodbye to their kids in the parking lot of the Adirondack Cheese Store on Route 12 in Barneveld at noon on Sunday.

Joann Hammon, whose daughter Melissa Quintanilla is taking the trip says she was all for the idea when her daughter told her about it, "I think it's great. I think it's a good opportunity for them to see the disasters and help the communities out."

Qunitanilla herself says she is looking forward to helping her fellow Americans, "your heart goes out for them, and usually there's nothing you can do. This is an opportunity to help out."

Fellow 11th grader Kaylin Bell who is also taking the trip says seeing the footage on TV has been difficult, and she knows it is going to be so much more real when they step off that bus in the hard hit areas.

Bell says she really is glad for what she and her family have here in upstate New York, a home to live in, something so many people in Alabama no longer have, "some could have kids, could have babies. It just hits home, that you take for granted what you live in, until you see someone that doesn't have what you have."

The group held fundraisers to raise more than $15,000 so they could take this trip. The bus alone costs $11,000 for the week.

And by the way, no hotels here. The kids and chaperones will work all day and then spend their nights on cots inside a Birmingham church.

The Holland Patent Tornado Squad expects to pull back onto Route 12 in Barneveld sometime next weekend.

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