Lawrence high school students offer to restore family photos damaged in tornado

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Precious family memories were gone in an instant.

People in Lawrence are still rebuilding their homes, and their histories, since their keepsakes were ruined. In many cases, that means family photos that can't be replaced. Students from both Lawrence public high schools want to help keep those photos from fading away.

A new purpose for learning arrived in Lawrence about a week ago, in the form of an EF-4 tornado. Students at both the city's public high schools, including Lawrence High School and Free State High School, welcome distressed photos from the public.

Journalism and yearbook classes said they want to use their skills in photo restoration, and to make photos seemingly ruined by the tornado look new again. Computer applications, such as Photoshop, can be used to eliminate crease lines and water damage.

Daniel Davidson, a senior at Lawrence High, is at the heart of the photo finishing. Davidson and his family home, which sat near 59 Highway, spoke volumes about the strength of that storm.

A large section of that house's roof was torn off by the tornado, and piles of ruined trees and building material litter the property, some of which used to be parts of storage barns that sat behind the house.

The sign beside the front door, reading, "Enter at your own risk," could be seen on several houses in the area.

Davidson said he and his loved ones are staying with friends for the foreseeable future, having taken shelter in the house's basement during Tuesday's tornado.

"It was like a wall of grey that blew open the door," Davidson explained. "We don't have a home right now."

This fall, Davidson and other students will begin restoration on those photos, which are being collected at both high schools. Those young learners said they plan to use graphic design skills they've learned in classes at Free State and Lawrence High to serve the public at no charge.

"Photos are a very sentimental thing," Davidson said. "They can't be recovered or rebought just because you get insurance money. The fact that we can repair those can help bring people back into their comfort zone."

Journalism and graphic design teachers, including Lawrence High's Barbara Tholen, said they want to get the word out now, before too many heartbroken homeowners give up and throw out mangled memories, which may yet be saved.

"If they come across some things that are irreplaceable, dry them out, bring them up to our schools, we're going to do our best to get them cleaned up and to looking as good as possible," Tholen told FOX4.

"Those things would be fun and cathartic to look back on at a time like this just to make you smile," Emma Milburn, a Free State High School senior, said.

Tholen said her students have already successfully applied these skills toward restoring some photos that were burned in a fire several years ago. Teachers and students agree that Lawrence has suffered too much, and bringing back old keepsakes can help with the healing.

There's no charge to use this service from the two high schools. However, teachers ask that clients limit their submissions to photos damaged in last week's tornado.

Interested clients can get started by filling out this request form. The schools ask that clients then deliver the form, along with photos in need of repair, in the specified envelope to the main office at either high school.

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