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img_1613bBy Mia Freneaux
    When 6th grade student Ashlynn Nussmeier heard about the flooding in Louisiana, she wanted to do something to help.  Ashlynn's dad is former New Orleans Saints quarterback Doug Nussmeier, her mother is former New Orleans Saintsations dancer Christi Nussmeier.  They live in Gainsville, Florida, but are originally from Lake Charles.   Ashlynn knew Fran Manzullo, her mother's good friend and also a former Saintsations dancer, lived in Louisiana.  She immediately asked her mom if Fran was ok, and found out Fran's parents, Wayne and Janet Messina, had been flooded out of their home in Central.  But what could a 12 year old do? 
    This young lady with a sunny smile and "can do" attitude had her  birthday coming up.  "I didn't really need anything, so I thought I'd ask my friends to bring gift cards for Louisiana instead,' she shared.  A local television station covered the news, and over $1000 was donated!  This encouraged Ashlynn to reach out to her school principal.  The principal approved a free dress day at Queen of Peace Catholic Academy, and another $1000 was raised. 
    The manager at the local Lowe's saw Ashlynn on TV and stepped up with 300 cases of bottled water and Gatorade.  Then Gatorade, not to be outdone, donated another 56 cases!  Her dad Doug, now the Offensive Coordinator for the Florida Gators, arranged for the donations to be transported to Louisiana by University of Florida students.
    Now Ashlynn was really fired up.  She contacted the principals at two of her former schools.  Holy Family Catholic School in Kirkland, Washington and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, responded with school supplies, uniforms, and personal hygiene items.  
    On Wednesday, September 14, Ashlynn and Christi flew into Baton Rouge with boxes of donations.  They went first to Central Intermediate School, where students from the flooded Tanglewood Elementary are attending classes, and presented Tanglewood Assistant Principal Christol Williams with gift cards and supplies.
    Victory Academy had their Kindergarten through 4th grade classrooms flooded.  Modular buildings had to be brought in from Texas so that the school could open the following Monday.  Teachers Trisha Beard, Kacie Causey, and Debbie King were on hand to receive donations for their school from Ashlynn. 
    Ashlynn then visited St. Alphonsus Catholic School, which had also been flooded, Student Alayna Simmons, also a 6th grader, had been chosen to receive the donations.  Alayna was one of many St. Alphonsus students whose homes were flooded..  Her father, Sgt. Bruce Simmons, was actually in surgery that day in his continuing efforts to recover from being severely wounded in the horrific police ambush on July 17. 
    Ashlynn then informed Principal Cynthia Ryals that St. Alphonsus was being given a grant from Holy Family School.  She then set out to bring donations to Central Private School, which had received extensive damage and is holding classes in 3 locations. What started as a birthday wish had touched the lives of literally hundreds of students.
    The following Monday, September 19, the truck arrived at the Central Police Department with the donations of water and Gatorade.  "It only takes one person to be able to do a lot of stuff for people," Ashlynn said with conviction, "I just want to challenge everyone to pay it forward."