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HERMANN, Mo. - A town probably best known for its wineries, is getting national attention for its generosity. A helping hand extended by the Hermann High School graduating class is reminding us that out of heartbreaking tragedy can come heartwarming kindness.

It was the day inside the Hermann High School gym that the Hermann class of 2014 had been waiting for. But as graduation got underway, 18-year-old Zack Ruediger realized he had a problem.

"I was thinking that I wasn't paying attention or something at one of our senior meetings or something and overlooked it," said Zack.

He noticed other graduates were handing the principal money as they walked up to accept their diplomas, collections for a good cause, he figured.

"I'm thinking is $6 bucks going to be enough? That's all I got on me," he laughed as he recalled.

Turns out Zack got his $6 back and then some.

His class of 67 students was donating to him. Days before graduation, Zack's father died from complications after hip surgery. Two years earlier, cancer took his mother.

"It's something I wouldn't wish on anybody," said Zack.

To at least ease Zack's financial burden, just about every graduate handed Principal Kent Sherrow money.

"I believe it was $846 that night," said Sherrow.

An act of kindness that spread beyond the quaint confines of Hermann. People from Michigan, Florida, California began contacting the school wanting to help.

"It's a big deal, so I'm not sure exactly where it's going to stop but it seems like there's a lot of support out there, a lot of good people coming to help out," said the principal.

Zack plans to use the money, more than $1,500 raised locally now, to study diesel mechanics out of state.

"I was thankful but yet I was also thinking I really, there's people out there that's worse off than me," said Zack.

Students giving money at graduation is a tradition at Hermann High that's evolved. It started as a prank, with the graduates putting goofy stuff in the principal's hand to try to embarrass him.

Over the years they changed it to money, they gave to Joplin relief, a solider in Afghanistan, and now Zack. The school has now set up a fund to collect the money.

Here's the information if you would like to contribute:

Hermann Area Community Foundation
Memo line: Zach Ruediger

Please mail to:
Gasconade County R-I School District
Central Office
170 Blue Pride Drive
Hermann, MO 65041

More information can be found on the district website.

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