Carmel Valley students raising money to help Joplin Elementary School District

By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

Three Carmel Valley siblings will host a lemonade stand in front of the Del Mar Highlands’ Ralphs this weekend to raise money for the Joplin Elementary School District, devastated during May’s deadly Missouri tornado.

Taylor, Ben and Sarah Niehart are raising money for students in Joplin. Photo: Karen Billing

Siblings Taylor, who is almost 10, Ben, 8, and Sarah, 6, Niehart will sell their lemonade on Sunday, July 17, from 12-2 p.m. in front of the store.

They hosted an additional sale this week and Ben said they want to raise “a lot of money” — their goal is $1,000 to $2,000.

“We want to make a difference to people,” said Taylor.

The tornado struck Joplin on May 22 and all of the area schools suffered damage. Some, like Franklin Technology Center, Irving Elementary and Joplin High School, were completely destroyed. Seven district students, as well as one staff member, were killed in the catastrophe.

Despite the devastation, the district is rebuilding and is determined to have more than 260 classrooms operational on the first day of school, Aug. 17.

The Nieharts want to make sure the students have a great start to their year and hope to send school supplies in addition to funds.

“We know what school supplies they need because I’ve been in every grade in elementary school except sixth,” said Taylor.

The Nieharts also want to send gift cards — the only stores still standing are a local Target and Office Max.

The children’s project was inspired by a story that Taylor’s Ashley Falls School fourth grade teacher Pam Kyle sent home this year about a man throwing starfish into the ocean. In the story, an old man walked up and asked why he was throwing starfish, when there were so many on the beach. He told him he couldn’t possibly make a difference.

But as the young man threw another into the ocean, he said that it made a difference for that one starfish.

“We talked about how we could make a difference in small ways,” mom Heidi Niehart said. “(The tornado) hit me really hard. It was so unbelievable to see the devastation afterward.”

If you are unable to make it to the lemonade stand but still want to contribute, contact Heidi at To learn more about rebuilding Joplin schools, visit




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