Hearts & Soles of Gold

Collier Wimmer, aged 9, performs in front of her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to raise funds for the victims of the September 11 tragedy.

By Elizabeth Raggi, Contributor
December / January 2002

On September 4 Collier Wimmer of Winston-Salem, North Carolina turned nine. On September 11 she was in Disneyworld to celebrate her and her little brother’s birthdays. At 8:42 a.m., 2,000 miles away, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Collier’s mother, Ashley Wimmer, wished her children hadn’t seen the horrible images. “We had the TV on and since we were traveling, we couldn’t screen them from it. They saw a lot.”

And what Collier saw affected her. Like so many other school children across the country, she sought a way to help. She says, “I saw a girl on TV who was raising money for the rescuers and I wanted to do something.”

“She wanted to go around door-to-door,” explains her mother, “but I said, `Why don’t you do something in the front yard.'”

Collier decided that she would dance, Irish step dance, to raise money for the relief effort.

“We were passing a store with poster board, and I said, `Alright, go ahead.’ Collier went and made the poster herself.”

Her idea to raise money through Irish dance is even more unusual when you discover that Collier isn’t Irish, “not a drop” as far as her parents know.

She began dancing two years ago. “I saw Lord of the Dance and I said, `I want to dance! I wanna dance!’ And now I do!”

Her mother describes her love of Irish dancing as nothing less than “a passion.” But it is Collier’s compassion that has attracted many fans. Her dancing was “not your typical lemonade stand.” It captured the eye of a neighbor who called the local newspaper. They sent photographer Ted Richardson and the photo was picked up by the Associated Press. Then it was featured as picture of the week on MSNBC’s website, and in Newsweek.

The response has been “amazing and unbelievable,” according to Collier’s mother. “And not only locally. We’ve received checks from Washington State, Vermont, and Florida. And just the sweetest notes.”

Collier tries to downplay the letters. “They say things like they’re really proud of me. Proud, proud, proud, proud — they all say `proud.'” As mature as she tries to be, the rising of her voice betrays her; it’s all still very exciting. Her brother, age five, doesn’t understand all the commotion. “Every time a car comes up, he runs and takes the money! He thinks it’s for him!” she squeals. But her laughter fades when she remembers seeing the footage over and over again on the news. “I was very sad. I was really mad at those people. And it’s so hard to understand that God still loves them.” ♦

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