Victim's daughter leads charm sales to benefit patients

RINCON, Ga. --- Days after the deadly explosion at the sugar refinery where her father worked, 9-year-old Morgan Seckinger went back to school -- smiling, as usual.


Her fourth-grade teacher couldn't believe it.

"I said 'Morgan, was your daddy hurt in the explosion?' " said Stacie Ortiz, Morgan's teacher at Ebenezer Elementary School. "And she said 'Yes, ma'am, but they took him to the hospital and he's going to be fine.' "

Ms. Ortiz knew better. Paul Seckinger, a single father who has custody of Morgan, was in critical condition with burns over 80 percent of his body at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta while Morgan was left in the care of her great-grandparents.

She enlisted Morgan for a project to raise money to help her father and other victims of the Feb. 7 explosion and fire at the Imperial Sugar refinery near Savannah.

Ms. Ortiz had noticed Morgan's shoes, the plastic Crocs clogs pocked with holes. Morgan had small, decorative charms that plugged into the holes.

Ms. Ortiz wondered: What if someone made charms using the logo for Dixie Crystals, the brand of sugar produced at the refinery, that the class could sell to raise money?

Imperial Sugar gave its permission to use the logo. The manufacturer of the shoe charms, Crocs subsidiary Jibbitz, agreed to produce 1,000 of the postage stamp-sized charms for free.

On Saturday, Morgan and her classmates began selling them for $5 apiece at tables set up outside banks. Morgan's grandmother, Karen Seckinger, said they sold 800 in about 30 minutes and made plans to order a new batch.