Watauga High Students Raise Money For Hurricane Victims (2016-12-07 14:53:09)

For Mac Utter, a student at Watauga High School, it started with a rainstorm.

In the days following Hurricane Matthew — the category five storm that raked the Caribbean and eastern U.S. in late September — she considered the duality of the weather.

Watching the brief, and relatively easy showers that represented the last of the storm’s fury expended over western North Carolina, she considered what the same storm at its height had meant to victims of Matthew in heavily impacted in places like Haiti.

Utter picked up her guitar, crafted her thoughts into song, and with the help of her classmates, Allison Quinn, Alli Brown and Reed and Barrett Connor, created a music video and kicked off a gofundme fundraising campaign that aims to raise $5,000 to aid Haitian victims of Hurricane Matthew.

“I was sitting on my porch one evening, two days after Matthew made landfall in the U.S.,” Utter said. “I was just listening to the rain, playing guitar because it was peaceful, and it dawned on me that the same rain must have sounded completely different to those in Haiti just a few days before.”

Utter said she reached out to Brown and Quinn for their input on the effort. Both had traveled to Haiti in 2015 to do relief work in the country, that even years later, was still reeling from the effects of the massive earthquake that tore through it five years earlier. 

Both young women said their experiences working in the country had indelibly affected their lives, and imparted on them a lasting respect for the Haitian people and a continuing desire to lend their assistance to the country.

“Doing something as simple as laying cement, or moving rocks to build a church by hand because a truck couldn’t get through – when you get home, it makes you look at things a lot differently,” Brown said. “The food that you eat isn’t just food any more, it becomes something more. Cleaning the house isn’t just work – it becomes something that you are doing to help somebody else out who needs it.”

Quinn echoed Brown, saying that traveling to Haiti had given her a new perspective on charity work.

“They say that we are going there to help someone who needs it,” Quinn said, “but it’s really they who are helping us. They helped us more than we could have ever helped them; they taught us more than we could ever teach them.”

Utter said, while accomplishing their goal of raising $5,000 would be ideal, she hoped that the effort would serve to raise awareness and connect her community to the needs of Haiti.

“A huge goal for me – and I think we all share this common goal – is that we want to let people know through this song that, no matter what you believe, or who you are, or where you stand, you are loved by someone,” Utter said. “Although we have this huge goal of raising $5,000, and it would be awesome to get there, I think more importantly to us, it is about bringing our community together. Through the high school, Boone, even the nation on a bigger scale, it’s about bringing two different communities together, sharing love, hope and belief in each other.”

Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott, who met with the group last month to discuss ways of nurturing their effort, said he was immensely proud of the work they had done so far.

“I am so impressed that Ms. Utter and the others saw a need and took the initiative to make something happen,” Elliott said. “This kind of attitude is what we hope for in all our students – for them to see themselves as part of a bigger world and to make a positive difference in the lives of others. It just speaks volumes about the quality and integrity of these students and reflects that talent and generosity that I find over and over again among the students in our school system.”

Hurricane Matthew wrought immense devastation across the western Atlantic, doing more than $10 billion of damage and costing as many as 1,600 lives. Haiti was particularly hard hit by the storm which affected 2.1 million people in the country, leaving more than 500 dead and 175,000 homeless. A significant 1.4 million ― 12 percent of the country’s population ― has been deemed in need of assistance.

If you’d like to donate, the WHS group’s fundraiser "Turn to You Haiti" – which has raised more than $600 to date -- and music video is available at