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More than 600 turn out for Larimore benefit

Marie Anderson, a Grand Forks resident, stood in line outside Pizza Ranch, a button with a picture of her 17-year-old daughter pinned to her jacket. "I just can't imagine," said Anderson, the button displayed prominently on her chest. Seventeen-y...

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A crowd waits in line for a benifit for people affected byu the Larimore bus accident on Wednesday, Jan 14, 2015, at Pizza Ranch in Grand Forks, N.D. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

Marie Anderson, a Grand Forks resident, stood in line outside Pizza Ranch , a button with a picture of her 17-year-old daughter pinned to her jacket.

"I just can't imagine," said Anderson, the button displayed prominently on her chest.

Seventeen-year-old Cassidy Sandstrom , of Emerado, a senior at Larimore High School , lost her life when an empty train collided with a school bus just outside of Larimore last week. The 62-year-old driver, Max Danner , also died in the crash.

Anderson, along with hundreds of other area residents, expressed her support of the families impacted by the crash at a fundraiser at Pizza Ranch Wednesday evening.

For Anderson, who is an educator and former bus driver, the accident hit home.

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"I'm just glad we live in an area where people rally," said Laurel Payne, a friend of Anderson and fellow educator, waiting beside her in line.

Pizza Ranch pledged to donate 20 percent of proceeds from dine-ins, pick-ups and deliveries Wednesday evening to the families of Danner, Sandstrom and the 12 other aboard children the school bus, most of whom were sent to regional hospitals after the crash.

General Manager Matt Slater estimated that roughly 600 people from across the area - including Arvilla, Emerado and Larimore - had turned out for the fundraiser as of 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The benefit had raised at least $3,000, by preliminary counts, he said.

The restaurant was abuzz with activity Wednesday evening, with patrons snaking in a line out the front doors, Larimore Public Schools faculty bussing tables as volunteers and pizza delivery boys bustling through a side door in and out of the kitchen.

Area residents, businesses and churches had also pre-ordered slightly more than 150 pizzas for the benefit, including Amazon , Cottonwood Community Church and Holy Family Parish , Slater said.

"This can happen in any community, and I think everybody went home and hugged their kids a little tighter," Slater said.

The Pizza Ranch fundraiser is just one of many ways area residents are planning to lighten the load of the families whose lives were upended by the crash that occurred the first day back to school following the winter holidays.

Children at Lil Pip Squeak Daycare in Northwood have crafted buttons with the "Larimore Strong" logo; a dentist in Larimore is selling rubber bracelets with "Larimore Strong" inscribed on them and residents are holding a live auction at the American Legion in Larimore from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Jan. 24, all to raise money for the families.

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Orders for T-shirts and window decals with the "Larimore Strong" emblem emblazoned on their front are pouring in to Tammy Hruby, a Larimore resident acting as treasurer for the fundraiser, which was launched on Facebook hours after the crash.

"My house is like Grand Central Station right now," she said, noting that news of the collision had reached ears halfway around the world.

"I had an inquiry from Hong Kong," she said. "It's unbelievable all the support we've gotten ."

Hruby has been receiving between 50 and 100 pieces of mail each day, she said, many with donations and notes of sympathy from across the country as far as California, Florida and Texas.

About 2,000 T-shirts have been ordered, she said. After accounting for the cost of producing the shirts, she expects to raise about $10 per T-shirt.

Hruby said the money grossed from the T-shirts and window decals will go toward the families' medical bills, travel expenses and any other costs incurred as a result of the crash.

"It's not only physical damage done. I feel there's going to be a lot of psychological damage. This isn't the end of it," she said.

At least 10 of the 12 surviving children aboard the bus were hospitalized. The Sandstroms had to commute to Minneapolis , where their son Matthew was admitted to Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Two other children were transferred from Altru Hospital in Grand Forks to other health facilities in the region.

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The deadline to submit orders and payment for the T-shirts is Thursday.

Larimore Public Schools Superintendent Roger Abbe was also at the Pizza Ranch benefit and said students, faculty and community members are in it for the "long haul," but they seem to be coping well.

"We have one more funeral coming up, and that will provide some closure," he said.

The funeral for Cassidy Sandstrom will take place in the Larimore High School gym at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

More on the crash:

Tragedy at the tracks: Student, driver killed after train and school bus crash

Accident brings back painful memories for Larimore woman

Larimore man dragged injured student out from under bus after crash with train

After fatal Larimore train crash, Twin Cities families offer food, beds for loved ones of those involved

Larimore Strong: People react to fatal school bus crash in Larimore, North Dakota

Parents: Larimore crash victim tried to save students on bus

Victims of Larimore crash remembered by family, friends

Community raises funds for Larimore crash victims

Larimore Strong: Train-school bus crash aftermath shows many people try to help

School bus crash likely to revive debate over bus seat belts

Fundraisers set for Larimore school bus-train crash victims

In Our Schools: FFA shows support for Larimore

More than 600 turn out for Larimore benefit

Kat Perkins to visit Larimore

Heitkamp invites Larimore school bus accident rescuers to State of Union address

Funds secured to install arms at Larimore railroad crossing

Larimore residents who responded to accident are guests at State of the Union Address

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