CHAMPION - A fundraiser held at Kent State University at Trumbull to raise money for victims of the 2011 earthquake and nuclear accident in Japan was also an opportunity to say thank you for assistance given by American citizens and military personnel.
"I wanted to tell the American people how much the victims appreciated their help," said Kimi Itagaki-Lynch, KSU graduate student and staff member.
"Arigato. That's one of our sayings," she said, explaining the Japanese term translates to 'Thank you, America.'
Kent State University graduate student and staff member Kimi Itagaki-Lynch, left, assists Bob Fejko, 66, of Champion, with raffle tickets Thursday during a fundraiser at the Trumbull campus in Champion for victims of the 2011 Japan tsunami and nuclear accident. Itagaki-Lynch sold Japanese goods, delicacies and desserts during the fundraiser. Photo by Bonnie Hazen
Itagaki-Lynch held the second annual event on Thursday to raise money and awareness of mental and financial hardships suffered by people in the aftermath of the tragedy in which more than 19,000 died. Many of those who survived lost their homes, family members and friends.
"Those kids, even victims, are saying they want to be something, they want to help people because they got a lot of help," she said. "They need an education (to do that)."
Bob Fejko, 66, of Champion, came down to offer his support of the fundraiser with a friend.
"I wanted to help the kids. It's a good cause. They got devastated," he said.
Itagaki-Lynch moved to the United States 10 years ago, and although her family in Tokyo were unharmed, she still considers the many victims to be family and friends.
"I couldn't stop crying. I needed to do something," she said, explaining that a growing nostalgia for her former country motivated her to hold the first fundraiser last year.
Itagaki-Lynch and her husband, Michael Lynch, an American English professor who had been teaching in Japan for several years and currently teaches at Kent State at Trumbull, were in Japan last summer and were able to see the needs of the children. Last year, they matched the money raised by the event, providing $800 for the cause.
This year's total surpassed last year's, which the couple again will match for a total of $820.
"We feel like we're doing a very small part, but every cent counts to help them," said Joyce Amick, academic coordinator for Kent State University at Trumbull Learning Center, who assists Itagaki-Lynch with the event.
"It's been two years since the disaster, and I'm so happy that she's doing as well as she is. When two years go by, people start to lose interest sometimes," she said.
This year's event featured various Japanese goods, crafts and snacks as well as a basket raffle with assorted Japanese snacks and souvenirs and gift cards donated by area businesses.
Many Kent staff members assisted Itagaki-Lynch with coordinating the event, some providing baked goods.
"(The Kent community) love to help each other. They're great," Amick said.
Itagaki-Lynch said she will continue to hold the fundraiser each year for as long as she receives the support.
"I always appreciate however much is possible," she said.