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Published: Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Decals fund relief efforts in quake-devastated Japan

  • Abbitt Wilkerson, a University of Washington Bothell student from Snohomish, sells stickers at a car event in Los Angeles last summer. Wilkerson, 18, ...

    Photo courtesy of Abbitt Wilkerson

    Abbitt Wilkerson, a University of Washington Bothell student from Snohomish, sells stickers at a car event in Los Angeles last summer. Wilkerson, 18, and Connor Surdi are now selling stickers to benefit Red Cross relief efforts in Japan.

  • Abbitt Wilkerson, a University of Washington Bothell student from Snohomish, and his friend Connor Surdi are selling stickers to benefit Red Cross rel...

    Photo courtesy of Abbitt Wilkerson

    Abbitt Wilkerson, a University of Washington Bothell student from Snohomish, and his friend Connor Surdi are selling stickers to benefit Red Cross relief efforts in Japan.

Abbitt Wilkerson has walked on ground now ravaged by Japan's monster earthquake.
Ever heard of drift cars?
I hadn't, not until the Snohomish teen told me about the motor sport of drifting. The cars, modified low-to-the-ground Japanese models, are driven so the rear wheels intentionally lose traction.
There are drift events at Monroe's Evergreen Speedway, but one of the world's top drift track facilities is -- or was -- Japan's Ebisu Circuit. It's not far from Sendai, a coastal city slammed by Friday's quake and tsunami.
Wilkerson, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Washington Bothell, has a brother who is a professional drift driver. In September, Walker Wilkerson, 21, drove at the Ebisu Circuit. Abbitt was there to film his brother driving.
"It's the most famous drift course in the world," Abbitt Wilkerson said Tuesday. "It's weird now, seeing pictures of the track -- places I literally was standing. The whole track is messed up."
But this story isn't about drifting. It's about helping.
Wilkerson, who graduated from Glacier Peak High School in 2010, and his friend, Connor Surdi, are making and selling car-window stickers to benefit Red Cross relief efforts in Japan. Decals that say "Hope for Japan" and "Pray for Japan" are being sold online, at www.forjapan.bigcartel.com, for $5 each.
All proceeds will be donated to Japan's Red Cross, the teens say. Both young men have visited Japan and have personal connections there.
Wilkerson's mother, Teresa Sato, is of Japanese ancestry. Her son said she was born here, but has many relatives in Japan. Their relatives live in Fukuoka, south of where the quake and tsunami struck. Wilkerson said he visits Japan every other summer.
Surdi, also 18, lives in Bellevue and attends Newport High School and Bellevue College as a Running Start student. A Japanese-language student, he has completed classes in Japanese at both high school and college levels.
Surdi's family has hosted exchange students for many years. "We've had more than 20 students, all from Japan," he said. "Our last one came back to visit last month. She goes back to Japan, and this happened," he said of the earthquake.
"It was extremely scary," Surdi said. "To know something of this magnitude could happen where I have so many friends, it made me feel sick."
Wilkerson and Surdi met online, and share an interest in drift cars and in Japan. It was online, on the blogging site Tumblr, that they got the idea for the stickers. Wilkerson said the design was created by a California man, Arturo Torres. They said when they contacted Torres he gave them permission to use his "Pray for Japan" and "Hope for Japan" images to raise money for earthquake relief.
Surdi said he is going to Tokyo with his mother next week, and plans to make the donation to the Red Cross in person. A photographer, he also is the marketing man for the sticker project.
It's Wilkerson who's working day and night to make the decals. He said he talked his father, Rick Wilkerson, into buying him a sticker-making device several years ago. He has previously sold stickers to people at car events.
Wilkerson also has a filming business, AWFilms, and is considering film school.
On Tuesday, he had no idea how many stickers had been ordered. "I've probably hit 1,000 or more, that's my guess," Wilkerson said. The teens set up a PayPal system for online orders and have sold stickers to friends.
Surdi said about $7,000 has been collected. He hopes to have $10,000 to donate when he visits Japan.
"I'm doing the stickers 24/7," Wilkerson said. "It's my life now."
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.
Decals help Japan
Abbitt Wilkerson and Connor Surdi are making and selling "Hope for Japan" and "Pray for Japan" car-window decals to help people in the aftermath of Japan's earthquake and tsunami. The stickers are $5 each.
All proceeds will benefit Red Cross efforts in Japan. They are available at www.forjapan.bigcartel.com.

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