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Crailsheim students tour Worthington

WORTHINGTON -- The traditional gift for a 60th anniversary is a diamond, but Crailsheim, Germany, is instead celebrating its longtime partnership with Worthington by sending 17 students over the ocean for a three-week trip.

WORTHINGTON -- The traditional gift for a 60th anniversary is a diamond, but Crailsheim, Germany, is instead celebrating its longtime partnership with Worthington by sending 17 students over the ocean for a three-week trip.

The Crailsheim students and four teachers arrived in Worthington late Tuesday night to meet their host parents. They started touring the city and learning about the area the very next day, despite the jet lag resulting from a seven-hour time difference.

"I wanted to learn the language better," said Jan Mohorko of Crailsheim. "I'm in the fifth year now (of) learning English."

The students and their teachers have already toured City Hall, played golf at the Worthington Country Club and visited Worthington High School.

Over the next week, they will also attend the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, roller skate in Sheldon, Iowa, tour Prairie Holdings, the Dayton House, local museums and Integrity Aviation, visit three District 518 schools, St. Mary's School and the Worthington Area Language Academy.

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Students are especially looking forward to visiting the Mall of America.

At the end of World War II, Germany was left in tatters by Allied forces, many of its people desperately poor and in need of basic necessities like shoes.

The small town of Crailsheim, in the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, was just one of many towns in need. About 70 percent of Crailsheim's buildings had been damaged or destroyed by the Allies.

Enter little Martha Cashel of Worthington, whose Finnish pen-pal Kerttu Siekkinen asked her to send any used shoes Cashel could spare, "since I have only paper shoes."

Cashel's parents and other adults, motivated by the children's efforts to collect shoes and clothing for their friends on the other side of the world, began searching for a European city to befriend and help recover from the ravages of war.

They found Crailsheim, then a more industrial city than Worthington with a population of 8,700 people. The first clothing collection for Crailsheim netted three tons of clothing, including 1,000 pairs of shoes.

"Everybody is still so grateful that it started," said Gerlinde Huetter, who teaches English in Crailsheim. "To have friends here, that's just great."

Since 1947, ordinary citizens of both towns have visited each other across the Atlantic many times. An exchange of students began in the 1948-1949 school year, starting with Crailsheimer Armin Ziegler. Worthington students Eddie Blair and Gene Jansen stayed in Crailsheim during the 1956-1957 school year. Since then, the exchange program has been yearly.

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