SCARBOROUGH (March 3, 2009): Harrison Tice loves to roller skate. He does it a few times a week playing street hockey in his Scarborough neighborhood. Now the 10-year-old is taking his love for his pastime and turning it into a way to help a young lady he calls “one special person.”
Since late January, Harrison has been planning a fundraiser to help pay medical expenses for Noora Afif Abdulhameed, a 7-year-old Iraqi girl injured in the fighting in Iraq in 2006. She has been in Portland since last summer, receiving medical treatment for head injuries.
“I just wanted to help her,” Harrison said. “I understand that I am pretty lucky to live here and that other kids aren’t as lucky. I thought this would be a good way to give back.”
Harrison, along with Happy Wheels in Portland, will host two hours of skating at the rink on March 14. All proceeds will go to Noora's cause and skate rentals are free during the event.
"I like to skate and I figured this is something others might want to do as well," Harrison said.
Harrison learned about Noora's plight after studying and reporting on the war in Iraq as part of a cultural studies project in his fifth-grade class at Breakwater School in Portland.
While doing research, he came across Noora's story in a newspaper and decided to take his project a step further and raise money for her, said his mother, Elizabeth Campbell.
In October 2006, Noora, who was 5 at the time, was shot in the head by U.S. snipers. According to the advocacy Web site www.nomorevictims.org, Noora's medical records show she had sustained an explosive bullet injury to her head that smashed skull bones and ruptured her cerebral membrane.
She underwent several neurological surgeries in Iraq, but members of nomorevictims.org brought her to Portland so she could undergo more surgery to repair her skull.
Harrison met Noora in February during school vacation. The visit, he said, strengthened his desire to help.
“In Iraq she didn’t always have electricity or clean water and that made me sad,” Harrison said. “I had fun getting to meet her and I can’t believe how well she speaks English.”
Harrison sought his mother's help in his quest to aid Noora.
“He came to me and said he wanted to do this,” Campbell said. “I always knew he was a caring kid, but this isn’t something you really expect to come from a 10-year-old.”
Initially, Harrison thought he would raise some money through a bottle drive. Then, with his mom's help, he began calling Greater Portland businesses to see if they would be interested in hosting an event to defray costs of Noora's medical care.
Many businesses were interested in an arrangement where 25 percent of the proceeds would go to Noora's cause.
That was good, but Harrison had another idea. He decided to call Happy Wheels in Portland, one of his favorite places to skate. He then got what he described as some of the best news of his life.
“They told me they would help and that they would donate all of the money from the event to Noora,” he said.
And so, on Saturday, March 14, Happy Wheels is going to do just that, manager Dan Dyer said. The fundraiser will go from 5:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. and admission is $4.50.
“We couldn’t believe they were donating all 100 percent of those proceeds to this cause,” Campbell said. “We were shocked.”
Dyer said Happy Wheels owner Paul White believes in fundraising causes that help children like Noora. To him, hosting the event was a no-brainer, Dyer said.
“We are just glad we can help,” Dyer said. “Paul White is big into giving back and we felt this one of the best ways we could do that.”
Harrison said he doesn’t have any monetary goal for the fundraiser, but said he hopes at least a few people will show up.
“Not everybody can be there and not everybody can skate,” Harrison said. “This allows them to still give if they want to.”
Noora is currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Portland and is scheduled for more surgery, Campbell said.