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Column

Students show big hearts, attitude

By ERNEST HOOPER
Published March 15, 2007


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Jimmy Kalamaras and Darrell Stefany, two Tampa civic leaders, have come together to help a fallen Plant High School honor student struck by a car last year.

It's the kids, however, who have really rallied to help Arielle Serrano since the accident, which happened in front of the school on Dale Mabry Highway on March 14, 2006 - a year ago Wednesday. Kalamaras and Stefany got involved because their daughters, Melissa Kalamaras and Maiken Stefany, are friends with Arielle and her twin sister, Alexis.

Now a number of students have joined in to help the parents with "Hearts For Arielle," a dinner and silent auction being held at the high school tonight from 5 to 8:30.

The outpouring from the students is natural - and needed.

"That emotion has probably been a lot of the spark for the kids," said Jimmy Kalamaras, who owns Larmon Furniture. "They wanted to do something, but they just weren't sure what to do. This is definitely their way of showing how much they love and care for her."

Kalamaras said the idea for a fundraiser began with the daughters and the LaSertoa Club, a service organization. Now support has come from every service club, sports team and organization at the school.

Tonight's fundraiser is being held in conjunction with the Plant-Robinson baseball and softball games being played at the school. LeShea Serrano, the mother of Arielle and a chemistry teacher at Plant, will throw out the first pitch at both games.

Another symbolic gesture comes in the form of tie-dyed T-shirts students created in Arielle's favorite colors, yellow and pink. Stefany, the president of EventMakers, said the entire school administration and faculty are involved and even the custodial staff will wear the T-shirts today.

Yet it's the student effort that impresses him the most.

"They're not doing it for attention," Stefany said. "They're not doing it for any reason other than to help the Serrano family.

"They've poured out their love for the family and this little girl."

People can lend support several ways: purchasing chicken and yellow rice dinners for $10; participating in the silent auction, which includes a number of autographed items from the national champion University of Florida football team; or by making a direct contribution.

Every contribution of $100 or more will receive recognition on a heart displayed in the Plant High cafeteria. That campaign began this month and runs through March 31.

Kalamaras said the fund will be used to help pay the cost of Arielle's treatment not covered by medical insurance. She continues to have lingering brain damage, and the money can make some treatments more available.

As Arielle makes progress, so, too, will a school and a community.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at hooper@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3406.

Fast Facts:

To help

To contribute to Hearts For Arielle, attend tonight's fundraiser at Plant High at 5 p.m., or send contributions to Plant High School, c/o Hearts For Arielle, 2415 S Himes Ave., Tampa, FL 33629.

[Last modified March 15, 2007, 06:12:31]


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