BETTENDORF, Iowa — Emily Goodpaster has close ties to Ukraine and is doing her part in relief efforts in the war-torn country by raising money for first-aid kit supplies.
The Pleasant Valley High School rising senior was born in the Midwest, but her great grandparents, grandparents and mother all grew up in the Ukrainian village of Sophoshyn, just next to Zhokova and north of Lviv. She used to spend the summers there when she was younger.
"We have family and friends there and when the war first started, we had received news that some of them had lost relatives and friends of theirs," Emily said. "It just made us feel really almost guilty that we were here in the United States, like safe from everything, not being able to do anything about it."
She decided she wanted to do something to help, but her mom, Myroslava, wasn't a fan of her original idea.
"She kept asking me, 'Mom, can I go to Ukraine and volunteer at the military hospital?'" Myroslava said. "She wants to go to pre-med next year after she graduates. And we're like 'No way. You're not going to go to Ukraine quite yet.'"
Instead, Emily decided to send medical supplies that the country is in need of.
"It involved a lot of research," Emily said. "Military websites were really important to us, because it just helped us know what we needed to pack for military purposes and these are going to the frontlines in Ukraine."
Emily and Myroslava started raising money for the supplies by hosting Pysanky (Ukrainian Easter egg) workshops which teaches how to make the traditional eggs.
"We would talk about the war and educate people on Ukrainian culture, and people had a really good time with it," Emily said. "And that even encouraged them to make bigger donations that what we were even asking for."
The workshops have been offered in the Quad Cities area as well as Chicago, Dubuque and Iowa City. So far, Emily and her mother were able to raise over $7,000 with this effort.
Each medical kit Emily designed contains tourniquets, QuickClot, splint, gauze, shears, bandages and more. Emily researched and found these items to be among the country's most needed supplies which she acquired through different vendors like Amazon. With the help of her family, Emily loaded up the supplies in suitcases and sent them with friends to Poland.
The kits were sent to Emily's family in Soposhyn, Ukraine where they were sent to Ukrainian hospitals and soldiers.
"Our first batch or round of supplies was mostly just any kind of supplies that we could get our hands on, because they were in need of anything, really. It was really limited. And they're like, send anything, we'll take anything," Emily said. "Now we're focused more on first aid kits, where we can actually package them ourselves."
Now, Emily is in Phase 2 of her fundraising with a goal to send even more supplies overseas. The cost of each kit is $40. Emily hopes to raise at least $10,000 to make around 200 kits. So far Emily's efforts have raised over $6,000 through her Fundly page.
Emily is graduating Pleasant Valley High School next year and will be attending Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to play volleyball. She's hoping to become a cardiothoracic or reconstructive surgeon.
"I've just been really passionate about the medical field and I think it's amazing how we've been able to come so far and come up with solutions to these problems with the human body," Emily said. "I can't picture myself doing anything else in the future."