Child of worker hurt in Georgia blast launches 'charming' fundraiser

Morgan Seckinger and her classmates sell donated charms to aid workers injured in the Imperial Sugar refinery blast.

By , Associated Press

Days after the deadly explosion at the sugar refinery where her father worked, 9-year-old Morgan Seckinger went back to school – smiling, as usual, with her long blond ponytail bobbing to the bounce in her walk. Her fourth-grade teacher couldn't believe it.

"I said 'Morgan, was your daddy hurt in the explosion?' " said Stacie Ortiz, Morgan's teacher at Ebenezer Elementary School. "And she said 'Yes, ma'am, but they took him to the hospital and he's going to be fine.'"

Paul Seckinger, a single father who has custody of Morgan, was at a burn center in Augusta while Morgan was left in the care of her great-grandparents.

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Ms. Ortiz enlisted Morgan for a special project one that would raise money to help her father and other victims of the Feb. 7 explosion and fire at the Imperial Sugar refinery near Savannah.

Morgan jumped at her teacher's idea.

"I feel like I'm doing something to help somebody," Morgan said.

Ortiz had noticed Morgan's shoes, the popular plastic Crocs clogs that are pocked with holes. Morgan had several small charms that plugged into the holes for decoration.

Ortiz wondered: What if someone made similar charms using the red, white, and blue logo for Dixie Crystals, the brand of sugar produced at the refinery, that the class could sell to raise money?

Imperial Sugar gave its permission to use the logo. The manufacturer of the shoe charms, Colorado-based Crocs subsidiary Jibbitz, agreed to produce 1,000 of the postage stamp-sized charms for free.

Morgan did her part, phoning boutiques and gift shops in Effingham County, just west of Savannah, to ask if they would stock the charms. She also went to print shops to enlist them in making fliers.

She stayed after school to make posters and to package each of the 1,000 charms.

On Saturday, Morgan and her classmates began selling them for $5 apiece at tables set up outside banks.

Morgan's grandmother, Karen Seckinger, said they sold 800 in about 30 minutes and made plans to order a new batch.

The money will go to the refinery families who have placed their lives and jobs on hold to stay near their loved ones at the burn center.

"I think we'll probably sell a lot of them," Morgan said. "I've told a bunch of people about them."

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