Fundraiser scheduled to help Japan


By John Minnis
Legal News

Imagine a huge tsunami wiped out all of the Lower Peninsula above Bay City. Imagine, too, that the entire area had a population density comparable to Royal Oak.

Only then can Michigan residents get an idea of the size and scope of the devastation, geographically and population-wise, of the March 11 9.0-magnitude earthquake and following tsunami that hit Japan.

“As of today, there are more than 10,000 dead and more than 400,000 homeless,” said Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss attorney Benjamin J. McCracken, who serves as an economic liaison between Michigan and Shiga Prefecture.

Coincidentally, McCracken rode through northern Japan on a train a little more than a week before the earthquake and tsunami hit.

“I remember thinking what a beautiful area it is with a rich culture and history,” McCracken recalled. “What a beautiful place to be.”

A Northern Michigan University and University of Detroit Mercy School of Law graduate, McCracken studied at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities in Shiga Prefecture, Michigan’s “sister state” southwest of Tokyo.

Though Shiga Prefecture is not among the areas hardest hit, McCracken feels deeply for what the Japanese are going through right now.

“It is quite shocking to me after just being there a week before it happened,” he said. “My heart goes out to these people. I’ve gone up there twice.”

As president of the Japan Center for Michigan Universities Alumni Association, McCracken is holding a fundraiser to help those in desperate need in Japan. Funds raised will be turned over to the Japanese consulate general in Detroit and forwarded to the Japanese Red Cross.

“I am hearing from friends that bottled water is becoming scarce,” he said. “This will make sure food and shelter get to those most in need as soon as possible.”

The fundraiser will be held Friday, April 1, at the BlackFinn Restaurant, 530 South Main, Royal Oak, from 7 to 9 p.m.

A minimum $10 donation will be collected at the door, and drink specials and free appetizers will be available to donors.

McCracken is also planning a silent auction of Japanese items donated by alumni members.

Tax-deductible checks may be made out to the Michigan-Shiga Sister State Board, noting that the check is for Japan Disaster Relief. Checks may be sent to: Michigan-Shiga Sister State Board, P.O. Box 4715, East Lansing, MI 48823-9998.

“We hope to raise $2,000 if possible,” McCracken said. “It’s been hard for me to see people in what is like my second country suffer. It’s really hard.”