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Pillowcase Project helps children prepare for severe weather

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The American Red Cross has teamed up with Disney and is teaching children in Illinois the importance of disaster preparedness. (WLS)

The American Red Cross has teamed up with Disney and is teaching children in Illinois the importance of disaster preparedness.

ABC 7 visited one elementary school to show how a pillowcase can bring a little comfort in times of an emergency.

Disasters can happen anywhere at any time. Just last week, an EF3 tornado touched down in Naplate, Ill., in LaSalle County, destroying homes and neighborhoods.

When emergencies happen, being prepared is key.

"We are working with the Red Cross to make theses pillowcases to hold our stuff in for when there is a disaster," Jaeveon Armstrong, a student, said.

Students at Irving Park Elementary are learning about disaster preparedness. The Pillowcase Project was started in response to Hurricane Katrina.

"Some of the students at the university there evacuated as soon as possible and they grabbed everything they owned and put it in a pillowcase. So we are doing disaster preparedness. So they can know what to do before an emergency as opposed to during," Leah Keleman, AmeriCorps volunteer and instructor for the American Red Cross, said.

Keleman is teaching students exactly what they need before a disaster strikes.

"So these are things if you ever need to evacuate if there's a flood bad snow storm. You are going to have your own disaster kits to be safe and sound," Keleman told students.

Each student not only learns what needs to go into the pillowcase for their emergency kit, but they also get to design their own.

"I put some flowers. Some rain, the sun, Red Cross, the flowers, tornado, hearts, water bottle and thunderstorm," Alyssa Price said.

"A ton of disasters. Like an asteroid could hit the earth, volcanoes, thunder lightening, dinosaurs," Armstrong said.

Now their pillowcases are complete and ready to take home to keep in a safe place so they are ready.

"I think one of the most important aspects of this project is to teach kids how to stay calm and to teach them knowledge is power. Sometimes kids in Chicago don't think about certain disasters. But if they know what to do they feel much better. It becomes less of a traumatic event for them," Keleman said.

One student said she feels safer now that she has a pillowcase with her.

The Red Cross and Disney have taught more than 500,000 students nationwide the importance of disaster preparedness through the Pillowcase Project.

Disney is the parent company of ABC 7 Chicago.

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