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The greatest gift he could receive — and give

For his birthday, 8-year-old asks for money — not for himself, but to donate for relief efforts in Japan after earthquake, tsunami.

March 26, 2011|By Joanna Clay, joanna.clay@latimes.com
  • Aiden Rowe, center, a student at Waldorf in Costa Mesa, with his class on Friday, March 25. He chose to forgo receiving birthday presents and instead asked for money to be donated to the Red Cross.
Aiden Rowe, center, a student at Waldorf in Costa Mesa,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

COSTA MESA — When Aidan Rowe, 8, had his birthday last week, he decided some things were more important than presents.

For his March 20 party, he asked his second-grade classmates at the Waldorf School in Costa Mesa to give him donations for the relief efforts in Japan.

Over the past week, he's raised more than $1,000 with the help of his friends and their families.

When asked why he wanted to help, the Newport Beach youngster said, "Since the tsunami and the earthquake … and since I like Japan a lot."

His mother, Chiyo Rowe, said that because the children learn Japanese in school, many of them feel a close connection to Japan.

Aidan, who is a quarter Japanese, went to Japan for three weeks with a school program. When he thinks of the country, it doesn't seem foreign, instead it's the home of family and friends.

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For that reason, Rowe said, she's been careful to show him what has happened to a place so familiar. It's a lot for anyone to comprehend, she said, let alone an 8-year-old.

When he heard that houses were swept away and people were sleeping in gymnasiums, he was devastated, his mother said.

"I'm personally just really moved by the level of support from the second-grade class and their level of generosity," she said. "I do think it's a testament to the community and the school."

Aidan's father, Stanton J. Rowe, works at Edwards Life Sciences in Irvine. The medical device company announced that it would match any employee contribution to Japan and decided to include Aidan's.

Edwards Life Sciences has regional offices in Asia, including one in Sendai, one of the most devastated cities in Japan. Many of the initial images that were shown were of Sendai's airport and its harbor.

On Friday, Aidan went to the offices in Irvine to deliver his $1,100 donation.

"I was really impressed, but especially when I found out he was 8," said Tom Abate, the firm's chief financial officer. "It was an impressive pile of money."

Abate said the company has been eager to do what it can to help. As of right now, he thinks it has about $60,000 in employee donations. They're going to close out early next week and then match the total, which they'll give to the American Red Cross.

Aidan's Japanese teacher at Waldorf, Masami Inoue, went to Japan after the earthquake hit and heard about his fundraising efforts via e-mail

"I was touched and moved that on Aidan's important birthday, instead of himself, he thought of the Japanese disaster sufferers by collecting contributions for them, and that his classmates pure heartedly cooperated," Inoue said in an e-mail. "I feel renewed pride that I teach at this school."

From 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday the Waldorf School will be collecting donated items for Japan relief. It's accepting items such as sleeping bags, diapers and camping chairs. Donations will be go to the Center for Women and Families, a nonprofit in Irvine, which will ship the items to Japan. For more information, contact the school at (949) 574-7775.

To donate to the Red Cross, visit redcross.org.

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