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Central Kitsap students providing for prevention

Three years after the Navy Yard City fire that took the life of an 8-year-old, Central Kitsap students are hoping they can prevent a similar tragedy.

Three students from Central Kitsap Junior High School, representing the student government, handed Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Chief Ken Burdette a check for nearly $1,400 Monday for smoke detectors that they hope may someday save a life.

“We’re happy to do it,” said Jasmine Gonzalez, the school’s student body president. “It feels good to know you’re making a difference in someone else’s life.”

The money was raised following the death of Ariana Hathaway in March 2007. Ariana was a second-grader at West Hills Elementary School in Bremerton.

A cab driver, Janet Dyer, first saw the fire and called 911 before assisting Ariana’s mother, Maria, and her 3-year-old brother Antwan after they escaped the house. Maria Hathaway spent time in Harrison Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit for burns.

The Hathaway house, a rental, did not have working smoke detectors, said Theresa MacLennan, spokeswoman for Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue.

“No one in Kitsap County should go to sleep without working smoke detectors,” South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Scott Hartley said at the time.

In Ariana’s memory, the Associated Student Body at Central Kitsap Junior High School decided to sell scented pencils, called Smencils, for $1 over the course of two years intending to donate the money to Hathaway’s family. They raised nearly $1,000 from the sales and received an extra $426 from donations.

Flint Walpole was the principal at West Hills when Ariana died and said he’s proud students are reaching not only outside their school but their district as well. He said he plans on writing a letter to the school to thank them.

“Kids really have good hearts and they will respond to tragedies when they know it’s something that impacts a whole community,” he said, adding that younger children may have a difficult time understanding the tragedy, but they recognize the effect it has.

By the time the students raised the money, the Hathaway family asked that it be used instead to benefit others through fire detection and prevention, Gonzalez said.

MacLennan said the money will go toward buying smoke detectors that will be installed in private residences free of charge, an ongoing service the department has provided the low-income neighborhood outside Bremerton’s city limits. Since the department is barred from using public dollars to purchase and install private detectors, MacLennan said it is dependent on grants and donations for projects like this.

She said the donation could not have come at a better time after a grant from the state Department of Health and Center for Disease Control in 2008 had dried up following an installation blitz.

“I couldn’t believe the good fortune and generosity,” she said.

At about $13 apiece, the department will be able to install about 100 detectors.

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