In McKinney, one email can turn into a donation of 17 firefighter helmets to Ukraine, and one peace walk can turn into $5,000 for the Romanian Red Cross.
In a time when many are probably asking themselves how they can help in the midst of the war in Ukraine, McKinney community members are finding a way to make a difference.
On Wednesday, the McKinney Fire Department announced that it shipped 17 donated helmets to arrive in Ukraine to help relieve firefighters in that country in conflict. The effort was a coordinated one between multiple Collin County fire departments, including those in McKinney, Lavon, Princeton and Weston.
It all started with an email to the McKinney mayor.
McKinney resident Sergii Nozhka had reached out in early April asking Mayor George Fuller if anything could be done to collect firefighter helmets and flashlights for his cousin, a firefighter in Ukraine. Fuller brought it to McKinney Fire Chief Danny Kistner, who in turn reached out to other fire departments in the area.
“The fire service goes beyond politics and borders. It is a family, and we are honored to have been able to help the firefighters in Ukraine as they struggle to do their jobs,” Kistner said in a press release.
The donation wasn't the only local effort to provide support to the country. On Saturday, a group of McKinney students gathered at Imagine International Academy of North Texas, located in McKinney, to raise money and to walk 65 laps — one lap for every day since the initial invasion of Ukraine.
Lindsay Johnston, teacher at the school and the faculty sponsor for the Junior World Affairs Club, said the club is a student-led organization that serves as part of the Dallas World Affairs Council. Previously the club has done a service and outreach projects, and this year, the goal was to focus on responding to the war in Ukraine.
The academy serves as an International Baccalaureate school, Johnston said, and the idea for a peace walk came from the IB school in Bucharest, Romania. Students there had also hosted a peace walk, and they were challenging other IB schools to do the same.
The McKinney academy hosted its event on Saturday, April 30, challenging attendees to walk the laps, but also allowing for other events to show support, including by planting sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine. About 200 people attended, and the event raised $5,000, which will go to the Red Cross of Romania, Johnston said.
For the students at the academy, the event was a way to make a difference in the midst of a distant war.
"You see these things unfolding on social media and on the television, and it feels so distant and remote in terms of being able to help," Johnston said. "I think one thing that really resonated with our student body was that we were doing this in conjunction with other IB schools just like us, the teenagers in Bucharest, the teenagers in Warsaw, the teenagers in these other IB schools would be hosting similar events, and that they would all be teaming up for kind of a greater good."