“I think it’s been wonderful so far,” organizer Brenda Weaver said a short time later. “Even people who didn’t have cans to return have stopped by and dropped off gas cards."
Traffic was steady throughout the first hour of the event as people drove into the parking lot at Resurrection Life Church in Grand Haven Township, dropped off their donations and left to a flurry of “thank-yous” from the volunteers surrounding the trailers.
Karen Hunt said she just wanted to help as she passed a garbage bag full of empties to one of the volunteers.
“Anything we can do — love, prayers — anything,” she said.
Weavers, of Grand Haven; and Teri Carpenter, formerly of Grand Haven and now of Comstock Park, came together to organize the drive to help the families of the five Grand Haven High School juniors who were injured when their vehicle rolled en route to a girls semi-final basketball game in East Lansing.
The money from the cans and bottles will be used to purchase gas cards and restaurant gift certificates for the families to use as they continue to drive back and forth from Grand Rapids for doctors appointments and visits with Brittney Olds, the only one of the girls still hospitalized.
On the day of the crash, the Honda CR-V left the road, hit the end post of a cable guardrail, rolled over and landed on the passenger side in the westbound lane of Interstate 96 east of the Lowell exit.
Injured were the driver, Dani Michaels; front-seat passenger Hannah DeVecht; and the back-seat passengers: Olds, Emily Bogner and Maddie Case. The three girls in the back seat were not wearing seat belts and were thrown from the vehicle.
Michaels and DeVecht were back home the same weekend after a short stay in the hospital. Bogner and Case were hospitalized longer, but have returned home to continue their recovery. The four girls have all returned to school.
Olds was released from Helen DeVos Children's Hospital on Monday and transferred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Center in Grand Rapids for continued treatment of multiple injuries, including a head injury.
Olds' mother, Cindy Olds, wrote on Brittney’s Care Page on Thursday that “today was a positive good day for all of us (Brit, nurses, techs and Mom). The smallest of things surprise me so much, and I am so happy for each and every little movement of her body.”
Cindy wrote that Brittney worked hard in her therapy, but seemed tired, keeping her eyes closed most of the day.
In previous posts, Cindy wrote that Brittney has said a few words and that her wounds are healing.
A recent post on the "Prayers for 5 Grand Haven High School Students" Facebook page from Hannah DeVecht’s mother, Julie, said that Hannah was off her crutches and had returned to school full-time. Her wounds are healing and she has been able to visit Brittney a few times.
“We will just continue to visit and help in any way we can until the group of five is together again,” Julie DeVecht wrote. “Thanks to all for continued prayers, love and kindness.”
Kassie Bunker, 17, also a junior at Grand Haven High School, was pulling tabs off cans during Thursday's fundraiser. She has had classes with some of the injured girls and said they were a lot of fun, although she did not know them well.
“Just because I don’t know them doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me,” Bunker said.
Bunker said the four girls who have returned to school “look good.”
She said “everybody is helping them out as much as they can by holding doors, carrying backpacks and books.
Students in the Voyager program at Ferry Elementary School are collecting the tabs from the cans.
“They’re being donated to the Ronald McDonald House, which collects them for fundraising,” said Danna Bohach, a parent of one of the students.
Anyone wanting to contribute tabs may drop them off at the elementary school.
Anyone interested in donating a gas card or restaurant gift certificate will have that opportunity once a post office box is set up next week, Weavers said. That information will be posted on the "Prayers" Facebook page.
Weavers said she was happy with the success of the fundraiser.
“It’s nice to know that a little community still sticks together when we need it,” she said.