Students at a central Iowa high school, in a short period of time, have raised thousands of dollars to help send a fellow student’s body to Iraq for a funeral. West Des Moines Valley senior Husam Abdul-Hameed was killed in a crash along Interstate 80 on March 3.
The 18-year-old Husam, his younger brother and parents, had fled to the U.S. a couple years ago following the Iraq War. Valley Associate Principal David Maxwell says he’ll always remember greeting Husam every school day in the hallway. “Whenever I saw him, we would always greet each other with ‘my man’ and usually give each other a high five. We’d always greet each other with just true joy,” Maxwell says.
“When I found out it was him who had passed, I just knew it was going to be a huge loss for Valley High School.” His family is wishing to have Abdul-Hameed buried in Iraq, which will cost $15,000. Many of the 1,800 students at Valley didn’t know Abdul-Hameed well because he spent much of his time in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes.
But, Maxwell says the entire student body has rallied behind a fundraiser involving $1 sales of leftover t-shirts from old Valley events. Sales of the shirts began last week. “It was like something I’ve never seen before,” Maxwell says of the initial sales. “It almost had a feeling of panic as kids were three and four deep at the table just handing over money – fives, tens, twenties – getting the t-shirt and saying, ‘keep it, keep the change.'”
So far, the effort has raised more than half the needed money. Maxwell says he’s stunned that donations, in just a few days, have topped $8,100. “It just absolutely blows me away,” Maxwell says. “That just shows you the generosity of not only the students at Valley High School and residents of West Des Moines, but the state of Iowa, you know? It’s just amazing.”
He says donations have come from as far away as Dubuque. Police say Abdul-Hameed had exited his car, which stalled along the Interstate, when he was struck by a passing motorist. An Urbandale man, 56-year-old Marvin Hostetler, has been charged with failure to maintain control of his vehicle — a simple misdemeanor.
The fundraising effort is set to end at 4 p.m. today. Maxwell says the school will present a check to the family with as much money as they are able to raise.