Oprah influence reaches Basalt students | AspenTimes.com

Oprah influence reaches Basalt students

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Who says television can’t be good for a kid?

“The Oprah Winfrey Show” has inspired the sixth-grade class at Basalt Middle School to raise funds to help AIDS victims on the other side of the world.

The sixth-graders have already raised $1,048 and hope to send as much as $10,000 to the Oprah Angel Network by summer to help assist children affected by AIDS in South Africa.

The local campaign was launched by Noel Chiarelli, who turned 12 years old Saturday. Noel said her mom videotaped an Oprah show that recounted the host’s trip to South Africa to help kids suffering from AIDS or whose families were affected by the disease.

Noel said it was both sad and inspiring to see Winfrey deliver presents to kids who had never really received anything in their lives. She said she learned from the show that a child in Africa dies every 14 seconds from AIDS.

“It was really sad because you couldn’t watch it with a straight face,” Noel said.

After watching the video she was inspired to take it to school, where the sixth-graders are learning about the HIV virus. Their studies are on the medical side so the Oprah show added the human element to the devastating disease, said Aimee Howe, Noel’s teacher.

Noel asked Howe and the principal about showing the video to the entire sixth grade and using it to start a fund-raising effort. “She has a great sense of social responsibility,” said Howe.

The request was granted, and her classmates latched onto the idea of raising funds to help the disadvantaged children of South Africa. Mountain Clear Water of Rifle donated several large jugs that money can be collected in. Letters went home to students’ parents earlier this month seeking donations. Noel said she’s hoping each of her classmates can raise at least one dollar per day.

Valley residents who want to support the cause can contact Aimee Howe, Basalt Middle School, 51 School Street, Basalt, CO 81621 or stop by the middle school where a collection jug is in the office.

Noel said she doesn’t have any specific plans for another social welfare effort but she would like to find another cause.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com