GIBSON CITY — Gibson City residents Ron and Melanie Warfield know how terrorism can affect a family.
Their son, Robb, his wife and three young children were forced to leave Africa, after Robb, a missionary, was targeted by al-Qaida.
A midnight knock on the door came, and embassy officials told her son his family was in “grave danger,” Melanie Warfield told GCMS High School students at an assembly last week.
The family relocated to a safe house and later fled the country. They weren’t allowed to say goodbye to friends or neighbors or take their belongings.
“The biggest thing they had to leave behind wasn’t their possessions or their friends,” said Warfield. “It was a sense of safety and well-being.”
The Warfields were at GCMS to help kick off a fundraising campaign to help those affected by terrorism and violence. The school is teaming up with others in the Heart of Illinois Conference to raise enough money to relocate one family from war-torn Syria.
Warfield said her son and his children went through days, weeks and months of being afraid, even after they were back in the United States. Syrian refugees, though, experience far greater difficulties, she said.
“They’ve lived in fear in a war zone,” said Warfield. “They left homes, families, schools, professions and their country. “
The idea of raising money for a refugee family came from Fieldcrest Principal Bill Lapp, who learned more about the country at a conference he attended in Birmingham.
After returning, he realized his students didn’t know a lot about what was going on in the world. Lapp asked students what they knew about the Islamic State, whose brutality has made headlines worldwide for more than a year.
“As tech savvy and cell phone savvy as they are, they didn’t know what was going on,” Lapp said. “ I realized it’s time to let our kids know what is going on.”
Lapp discovered it takes $25,000 for the organization, Mercury One, to relocate a family of five and provide for them for one year.
“I knew we couldn’t do it ourselves,” said Lapp, so he approached other HOIC principals and asked them to join the effort — and the idea of a “Conference for a Cause” was born.
“It’s $2,000 a school if everyone participates,” he said, noting the idea was well received by other principals.
“Everyone has there own things they raise money for,” said Lapp. “We will see how much money we can raise,” he said.
Fieldcrest and El Paso-Gridley recently teamed up at a football game to begin fundraising.
“It’s charity through rivalry,” Lapp said. “We can compete but raise money together.”
Lapp told the GCMS students there is nothing more important than to stand up for other people. “When you do something charitable for somebody that you know isn’t going to pay you back, that is true love and caring, and that’s what you are doing.”
GCMS' goal was $2,500, but it was doubled after the assembly.
The marketing class designed T-shirts to make and sell, and additional money will be collected with donation jars. The students also will hold an Avanti’s night during their home boys basketball game against El Paso-Gridley.
Ron Warfield, who also helped start Gibson City’s food pantry, said it’s important that students get involved in projects beyond their schools and communities.
“We have a real tendency to look inward,” said Warfield. “But a problem here is a crisis there.”
Senior Mikayla Baillee, who had the winning design for the T-shirt, said she feels fortunate to be able to help one family get out of Syria.
She pointed to the back of the T-shirt, which reads, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
“I think that’s a perfect quote for this,” she said.