Several Prior Lake High School students on Thursday got a taste of the aftermath of natural and human disasters — and of some of the help that follows.

Members of the school’s Interact Club for the fourth year slept under cardboard boxes and tarps in front of the school Thursday night to raise awareness and money for ShelterBox, an international nonprofit relief group.

The event simulated for a few hours the experience of families in this country or others after losing everything in an earthquake, storm or war.

Club members also learned about and practiced how ShelterBox team members would respond — evaluating which people need help most and divvying up perpetually limited resources.

“I think it’s a wonderful cause,” and worth waking up a bit sore the next morning, said Ani Nord, a senior who’s been part of Interact for several years. “This is just a small piece of what those people go through every day.”

ShelterBox has provided shelter and tools to more than 1 million people in such places as the area hit by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, Syria during its ongoing civil war and Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami there, said Greg Krauska, a ShelterBox USA board member who lives in Chanhassen and attended Thursday.

The group spun off of a Rotary International project almost 20 years ago and is based in England. Its work complements other groups’ responses, Krauska said, such as that of the health-focused International Committee of the Red Cross or of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Prior Lake Rotary Club, meanwhile, sponsors Interact, which contributes to groups like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Feed My Starving Children, Nord said. The school club’s online fundraising page showed the club raised about $1,800 for ShelterBox as of Friday morning, not counting cash donated during the camping event.

The club raised more than $10,000 for ShelterBox the past three years, said Rotary Club member Susan Perez, who joined the group Thursday evening.

Supporting and fundraising for the nonprofit was an easy decision, said Tianna Helgeson, Interact president. She plans to become a doctor and wants to keep contributing to relief groups in some way.

“People all the time forget what they have,” she said.

Community editor

Dan Holtmeyer is the community editor for the Prior Lake and Savage papers. He grew up in Nebraska and worked as a journalist in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas before coming to Minnesota in 2018.

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