‘I just wanted to help’: Students at Whole Children raise money for Ukrainians in need 

  • High school freshmen Max Pearson, left, of Hadley and August Santos of Northampton talk about the Ukraine fundraiser at Whole Children in Hadley, June 2. Pearson attends the online Greater Commonwealth Virtual School and Santos attends Northampton High School. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • High school freshmen Max Pearson, left, of Hadley and August Santos of Northampton talk about the Ukraine fundraiser at Whole Children in Hadley on Wednesday, June 2, 2022. Pearson attends the online Greater Commonwealth Virtual School and Santos attends Northampton High School. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • High school freshmen Max Pearson, left, of Hadley and August Santos of Northampton talk about the Ukraine fundraiser at Whole Children in Hadley on Wednesday, June 2, 2022. Pearson attends the online Greater Commonwealth Virtual School and Santos attends Northampton High School. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • High school freshmen Max Pearson, left, of Hadley and August Santos of Northampton talk about the Ukraine fundraiser at Whole Children in Hadley on Wednesday, June 2, 2022. Pearson attends the online Greater Commonwealth Virtual School and Santos attends Northampton High School. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Whole Children program assistant Evan Sabourin talks about the Ukraine fundraiser at the Pathlight Inclusive Community Center in Hadley on Wednesday, June 2, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Whole Children communications coordinator Jessica Rollend, left, director of development and communications Valle Dwight and program assistant Evan Sabourin, right, talk about the Ukraine fundraiser outside the Pathlight Inclusive Community Center in Hadley on Wednesday, June 2, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Whole Children communications coordinator Jessica Rollend talks about the Ukraine fundraiser at the Pathlight Inclusive Community Center in Hadley on Wednesday, June 2, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/26/2022 8:35:06 PM
Modified: 6/26/2022 8:32:34 PM

HADLEY — Students at Whole Children in Hadley have raised more than $400 to help those affected by the war in Ukraine.

The $423 was raised through a combination of a raffle and a video game tournament was donated to Inclusion Europe’s efforts on behalf of their Ukrainian member, the VGO Coalition, which is providing aid to Ukrainian people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Both organizations are advocacy groups for people with intellectual disabilities.

The 14-person tournament was won by ninth grader Max Pearson, with ninth grader August Santos finishing second.

“I just wanted to help people who needed it,” Pearson said.

“It was a fun event mixed with an issue that was very topical,” Santos said.

Entries to the tournament, which took place on May 7, went to the fundraiser and it featured games on the Nintendo Switch console, such as Tetris Super Smash Bros. and Just Dance. Participants got points depending on their finish in each of the games, with the winner of the tournament being the player with the most total points.

Pearson said the event was the first time he and Santos hung out in-person in two years, although they have played video games online together over the pandemic. Money also was raised through the raffle, which ended May 27.

The origin for the fundraiser came from Whole Children staff member Evan Sabourin, who saw that there was a Humble Bundle of independent games being sold to benefit those affected by the war in Ukraine. After he gauged interest from students who participate in Whole Children’s programs, he helped to organize the fundraiser.

Valle Dwight, Whole Children’s director of development and communications, said participants learned that kids with disabilities in Ukraine have been hit the hardest by the war.

“I think the kids really connected with that,” Dwight said.

Whole Children provides recreation and enrichment activities for children and teenagers of all abilities, particularly those with special needs. It serves people from as far away as Connecticut and Vermont and beyond.

“We have really low student-teacher ratios,” Dwight said.

Whole Children is also in the process of moving and will be located at Village Hill in Northampton.

Both Pearson and Santos identify as being on the autism spectrum.

“It’s nice to have a community of people I can talk to and be myself around,” said Pearson, when asked what Whole Children means to him.

Santos, meanwhile, said that he has been involved with Whole Children for nine years, and he has done activities that include video games and gymnastic through the organization.

“I’ve known a lot of people through it,” he said.

Whole Children also has a program called Milestones for adults.

“We really like the idea of doing a video game fundraiser event,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.
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