Eight-year-old student organizes fundraiser for Japan

As 8-year-old Ryan Copeland watched the devastation in Japan play out on the evening news, he turned to his mother for comfort.

"It's really sad," Kim remembers her son telling her. "Those kids don't have a place to live anymore."

A natural history buff, Ryan has a particular interest in Asia. His heartache while watching the suffering soon turned to motivation.

"I felt really sorry for Japan, and I wanted to help some way," he said. "There was an earthquake, a tsunami and three reactors went off."

In his karate class at the ATA Black Belt Academy, the focus on character development had recently featured service.

"I learned to help the community," he said.

Applying those skills, the Seeliger Elementary School third-grader decided to host a fundraiser to collect donations for the Red Cross, which is providing aid in Japan and other areas struck by disaster.

When he came to his mother for support, she jumped in.

"How do I not do something?" she asked. "How do I not help him?"

Ryan's original idea was to hold a car wash, but Kim explained that the unpredictable weather in Northern Nevada could ruin his plans. Instead, they settled on a bake sale.

She recruited her co-workers in the state parks department to help bake as well as other parents at the ATA Black Belt Academy, where the sale will be held.

Karate studio owner Shawn Goodner said he was glad to participate and proud of Ryan's initiative. It's all part of the curriculum offered there, he said.

"As kids grow up, they have to be taught the proper way to live," Goodner said. "The proper way to live is to create leadership characteristics so they learn to go out and not only live their lives better but help others live better. We do that by working on ourselves first. If we don't have the resources inside, we can't help anybody."

Ryan's goal, he said, is to "at least get enough money to build some of a home."

Ryan and his mother will be baking items this week for the sale 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Anyone who would like to participate is welcome to bring baked goods to sell as well.

Although only 8, Ryan is confident he'll be able to help out.

"Kids can make a difference," he said.


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