The Friday night lights behind Edwardsville High School illuminated a line of cars that stretched across the campus to the road on the far side of the school.
The cars were bringing donations to the Edwardsville Little Tigers’ collection effort for the Campbell children. The outpouring of donations and support has been “overwhelming,” according to the organizers with the children’s football club.
All but the two youngest Campbell children participated in Little Tigers either as football players or cheerleaders, according to Little Tigers president Eddie Lowry. “We know the kids,” Lowry said. “We’re a part of these kids’ lives, and we want to teach them that we’re behind them.”
So when word spread about the tragedy that had befallen the seven Campbell children — their father shot in their home, their mother dead in a nearby lake, the youngest sibling nearly drowned, their house burned and all their belongings gone — the Edwardsville-Glen Carbon community swung into gear.
“We had a lot of tears as people were coming up, but we had a lot of people who were thankful to be able to help these kids,” Lowry said.
On Friday night, the line of cars waiting to donate toys, clothing, housewares and more was daunting. The student football players ran up and down the line, collecting the donations from each car in carts in order to keep the line moving, Lowry said.
“The generosity has been overwhelming,” Lowry said. “The message to the community is, ‘Thank you.’ It’s been amazing how generous they are, and the family is so appreciative. They’re a little overwhelmed right now, but they are so appreciative.”
Metro-East Mini Storage offered three storage units for donations, Lowry said. As of Saturday afternoon, they are full, as well as another storage unit they had acquired. A 22-foot box trailer loaned to the effort was expected to be full by the end of Saturday’s collection, he said.
And that doesn’t include the large bins at the Glen Carbon Wal-Mart, located at each entrance. Co-manager Courtnie Howes said that when the bins fill up, they line up shopping carts in the aisle to hold the extra.
As many as 10 shopping carts were filled at one point, Howes said, with more bins and carts filling up Saturday afternoon.
“We have a lot of stuff,” Lowry said. “All of it is being shown and offered to the caregivers so the kids have what they need.”
And the Little Tigers aren’t the only ones collecting:
▪ The Country Meadows Homeowners Association and Edwardsville Wrestling Club have been collecting items and donations for the family and coordinating their efforts with the Little Tigers. A Campbell family fundraiser will take place at Edison’s Entertainment Complex 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 25, with $16 unlimited bowling, laser tag and arcade to benefit the family, according to Facebook posts on the homeowners’ association page.
▪ The Edwardsville Orchestra Boosters learned that one of the children was involved in orchestra, and had lost her viola to the fire. Within hours, two violas were donated, as well as a music stand and other equipment to ensure she could continue playing in the orchestra.
▪ Edwardsville District 7 schools are coordinating donations through the director of student services, with what Superintendent Lynda Andre described in a parent letter as “numerous donations … of clothing and shoes, school supplies, bedding and other hygiene items.”
▪ Kids Club Child Development Center will be collecting gift card donations through March 24 for the Campbell family.
▪ At least three GoFundMe campaigns were set up, but the one sanctioned by the family is being coordinated by David Fellows, a retired police officer who served with the Fairview Heights Police Department for 26 years and currently works for Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System.
Fellows said he knew the family through a cousin, and offered his assistance in running a GoFundMe campaign that had raised nearly $6,000 by Saturday evening. “It looks like it’s starting to get some traction,” Fellows said.
Fellows said the children’s grandmother will be the one to access the account, and it will all go to the children. Of the two other campaigns, Fellows said one has already shut down and combined its proceeds with his; the other has not replied to questions from the family as yet.
Donations haven’t just been clothing, games and stuffed animals, Lowry said. Everything from dental care to counseling services have been offered free to the children, to help them through their tragedy.
Lowry said they have already taken a first round of donations to the children. Each child has received a bicycle and tablet, he said. Someone has donated new bunk beds to the family, so the children have sufficient beds and bedding, as well as clothes, toys, shoes, backpacks and more.
“We didn’t want to overwhelm the caregivers,” Lowry said. “There’s a lot to sort through, and we’re doing it right now.”
In fact, there’s been so much donated that the organizers are calling for a change of focus. “They don’t need any more things now,” Lowry said. “I think what they’re most concerned about is the ongoing needs of the kids, so probably financial contributions are better at this point.”
The Little Tigers has set up its own collection fund, which Lowry said would not be subject to any fees and 100 percent will go directly to the kids. He did not have an exact figure as of Saturday, because money keeps coming in, he said. But it is already into the “tens of thousands,” he said.
They have not set a donation goal, Lowry said, because all the money collected will be put into a trust fund for the children to help fund their care and future college educations.
Lowry said he was both surprised and not surprised by the reaction of the Edwardsville-Glen Carbon community. “The community has just come together for these kids, and it’s just amazing,” he said. “I wish I could say I was really surprised, because I’m not — this is a great place to be. And people have just kicked in like you can’t believe … Is it overwhelming for us? Sure, it’s overwhelming, but it’s a great overwhelming.”
At this point, there has been much more collected than the children or their caregivers could possibly take, Lowry said. What will happen to the rest? “We haven’t decided yet,” Lowry said, laughing. “We will obviously do something so the family can benefit from that, but we haven’t figured out what that will be yet.” Nothing will be thrown away, he said, but they will find a solution that further benefits the Campbell children.
Meanwhile, the children are doing as well as can be expected, while the caregivers are a bit overwhelmed, Lowry said. He has not discussed the tragedy with the children, but instead he said they are focusing on the future — and on their new belongings for their new life, he said.
On Saturday, Lowry brought over the bicycles and the children leaped to them, riding around in the cool sunshine. “They came running out of the place where they are staying and went riding around the cul-de-sac, and it was just awesome, because they were able to get some energy out and focus on something else,” Lowry said.
In the meantime, volunteers continue to sort the massive donations at the Tigers’ clubhouse, and Lowry said the Little Tigers “family” will continue to work as long as the kids need help.