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Spur-of-the-Moment Fund Drive Salvages East Coast Class Trip for 8th-Graders

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Times Staff Writer

It’s a week and a day later than they originally planned, but 145 Wangenheim Junior High School students will be flying to Boston today, thanks to an intensive spur-of-the-moment fund-raising campaign organized by their parents.

“It’s been a real group effort,” said Cari Ehrlich, whose daughter, Leah, is taking the trip. “A lot of people have given up everything else to do this. We have people who have taken their vacations so they can work on this full time.”

Last week, the students and their families were shocked to learn that a Mission Valley travel agency was canceling an East Coast trip for which they had paid $130,000. Anthony Casias, co-owner of East West Travel, told school officials that the agency would be calling off their trip and several others because of cash-flow problems.

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The parents decided they would not allow their children to be cheated out of the tour, a field trip that has been taken by the school’s eighth-grade American history classes for the past 10 years.

Within a day of receiving the news from East West Travel, the Wangenheim parents were on the phone raising money for a new trip they would organize themselves. Hotels and airlines were contacted with requests for reduced rates; friends, neighbors, merchants and corporations were hit up for cash donations. Within a week, they had raised more than $50,000 in cash and gotten loans, credit and in-kind donations to cover the remaining costs.

The students, Ehrlich said, are thrilled by the turn of events.

“They don’t believe it,” she said. “They’re amazed.”

Ehrlich said the parents will continue their fund-raising efforts until they’ve raised enough to cover the total cost of the trip, which they estimate to be about $100,000. Then they will meet again to discuss the possibility of taking legal action against the San Diego Unified School District or East West Travel.

Other Campaigns Started

“We have a lot of angry parents,” Ehrlich said. “A lot of people are threatening to do a lot of things.”

Meanwhile, students and parents at three other schools that had prepaid trips canceled by East West Travel--Bell Junior High, Lewis Junior High and the O’Farrell School for Creative and Performing Arts--have embarked on their own fund-raising campaigns. They hope to send their tour groups to the East Coast the first week in June.

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