February 26, 2002 11:00 pm

Northeast Oregonians again have demonstrated how capable they are of reaching out to people who are hurting.

The community responded in many ways to 20-year-old Amy Daggett, who was critically injured in a motor vehicle accident north of Island City on Dec. 11. The Elgin woman received numerous cards while hospitalized in Boise and donations were made to an account set up for her at Pioneer Bank.

Enterprise kindergarten teacher Judy Fletcher, who was hospitalized in December with meningitis, reports numerous cards and letters from Wallowa County residents were sent to her at a Boise hospital. You have to live here (in Wallowa County) to know how wonderful the people here are, Fletcher commented.

Observer readers have another chance to reach out to some people who are hurting. In this case, its the 16 Elgin and Imbler eighth-graders and two La Grande home-school students who are the victims of the theft of money from their Philadelphia Trip account. The April 5 Imbler-Elgin trip to Philadelphia and other East Coast historical sites may be in jeopardy unless people step forward to help make up some of the funds that are lost.

An Elgin woman, Leann Dona Thompson, 34, has been charged with first-degree theft and second-degree forgery in the loss of thousands of dollars of the students trip money. Each youngster was expected to pay about $1,500 for the trip.

The La Grande Lions Club has stepped up to provide $1,000 to make up for some of the lost funds. Tosh Connor said he will contribute $500. Other businesses, clubs, service organizations and individuals also should rise to the occasion to help fill the gap. Those interested in making a donation should contact Georgia McKee at 963-2860 or 963-4630 or check with Susie Marshall at Pioneer Bank.

Restitution for any crimes will hopefully occur, but those funds may not be available until well after the students have completed their trip. These young people, eager to see the places where our nation got its start, should not be denied that opportunity because of the alleged misconduct of someone who was entrusted with their funds.

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