Petaluma students, others continue Santa Rosa homeless man's sponsorship of Senegalese children

Like most teenagers, Isabella Petros-Weber of Petaluma feels there is little her cohorts can do to make a difference in the world.

"We're children," she said. "Not many people listen to children."

That's why the story of a homeless Santa Rosa man's unusual charity resonated with Petros-Weber, 14, and her eighth-grade classmates at St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School.

The 36 students did more than write essays assigned by their teacher, Nadine DeVost, after reading a Press Democrat story about the life and death of Kevin Christopher Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald, 57, was struck and killed by a pickup truck on Highway 101 near downtown Santa Rosa on Dec. 17. The homeless man, who lived on about $600 a month in disability payments, was giving $56 a month to an international charity to feed an unrelated pair of 9-year-old children in the west African nation of Senegal.

"I thought that was really touching," Petros-Weber said.

Her class started tossing small sums into a donation box, which soon held about $75. DeVost added enough to make a $112 contribution to an account set up by Fitzgerald's family to keep the payments going.

"The kids were very moved," DeVost said.

So was Fitzgerald's sister, Kathleen Fitzgerald-Orr of Santa Rosa, as total donations to the account exceeded $1,800 in two months.

After spending $672 in February to continue the payments to ChildFund International for a year, the account now has a balance of $1,160, nearly enough for two more years of support.

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