The Big Give
NCCL's 'Big Give' raises money for local, national organizations
NCCL's 'Big Give' raises money for local, national organizations
By Karie Simmons, Newark Post
May 4, 2016
Wildlife rehabilitator Hillary Taylor has been helping sick, abandoned and injured animals get back on their feet for more than 40 years out of her home in Bear without any state or federal funding.
She relies entirely on volunteers, donations and some of her own money to keep her rehab center going, but now, thanks to an eighth-grader at Newark Center for Creative Learning who raised roughly $1,000 in cash and supplies for Taylor, she can afford to continue her work.
Brynna Bartoo, 13, of Newark, fundraised for Taylor as part of a class project called “The Big Give” and on Monday, she dropped off everything she collected over the past few months.
Taylor was in tears.
“I’m so impressed with her,” she said as she hugged Brynna. “You have no idea what this means to me.”
The class project was spearheaded by language arts and social studies teacher Kate Kerrane, who said students at the school on Phillips Avenue have been doing the project for the past eight years. The idea was inspired by Oprah Winfrey’s reality TV show “The Big Give,” which aired on ABC in 2008 and pitted contestants against each other to see who could use allotted funds to make the biggest difference in the lives of others.
Kerrane said several parents suggested the school create a class project based on the show and donated the original seed money to get it started. Since then, the program has been funded by grants and donations as well as Wednesday pizza sales at the school.
This year, 15 of her 7th and 8th grade students were each given $50 to make a difference in the community, but she didn’t just want them to give the money away. Instead, they had to make the money grow by collecting additional donations, raising awareness and volunteering.
Students chose their topics by deciding what they cared about or identifying a need in their community that wasn’t being met. Then they researched the issue, identified related organizations and nonprofits and created a mission statement.
“They needed to make a plan about why they wanted to make a difference,” Kerrane said.
Each student raised money and supplies for their cause in different ways. While some students found success with placing bins in the school hallways and hosting fundraising events, others received donations by writing letters and making phone calls.
Eighth-grader Jasmine Middaugh and classmate Pilar Hervas raised over $1,000 for a Florida-based nonprofit called To Write Love on Her Arms, which works with people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and thoughts of suicide and invests in treatment and recovery programs. The students collected money for the cause by organizing a “Penny Wars” fundraising challenge that split the school into four teams to see who could donate the most pennies, as well as from a GoFundMe page.
Jasmine, 14, said she came across To Write Love on Her Arms while browsing on the internet and it spoke to her. She said mental illness plays an important role in many of today’s issues but, it is lacking awareness and resources.
“It’s such a big problem that we feel needs to be talked about more,” she said.
Now that their project is complete, Jasmine said she feels like she has made a difference.
“I really like that Kate does this because it gives us the opportunity to help with something I never thought I would help with,” she said, using her teacher’s first name, as is custom at NCCL.
For 13-year-old Nicole McGhee, of Wilmington, The Big Give project was personal.
She chose to focus her efforts on raising money for pediatric palliative care at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington because of a close friend with cancer who was staying in hospice care. He died before she could finish her project.
Nevertheless, Nicole pushed on. Her goal was to raise enough money to buy two books – “The Next Place” by Warren Hanson and “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst – that help families deal with death. She wanted to get 33 copies of each book, as well as heating pads, notebooks, and pens for kids to use while in the hospital.
She placed a donation bin inside NCCL and wrote letters to Barnes and Noble – which donated two books – as well as the books’ publishing companies, which offered buy-one-get-one-free deals and also donated some books. She said Walgreens and Poppin gave her pens and notebooks.
She also raised money from a GoFundMe page as well as through her church and a family game night at the school she hosted with her classmates. She said she plans to use some of the money she collected to put a bookplate inside every book to honor her friend.
Kerrane said the students were held to a loose deadline, but she decided to allow Nicole to keep working on her project after seeing how much success she was having.
“I’m not going to stop her,” she said. “Who wants to stop that kind of enthusiasm? I don’t want to get in the way.”
Like her classmate Nicole, Bethany Duff, 13, of Newark, also chose to focus her efforts on helping other children. She and partner Sybil Roosen raised money for the Wilmington-based Kind to Kids Foundation’s “My Blue Duffel” campaign, which provides foster kids with a duffel bag containing a blanket, toothbrush, book and stuffed animal when they transition or are removed from their home due to abuse or neglect.
“Just the idea to switch houses and switch families often, we were thinking that it would be hard not to have a stable life,” Bethany said.
“Animals are nice and homeless veterans need help, but helping peers, basically, feels different,” she added. “They’re kids like me.”
Bethany raised enough money for 200 duffel bags and she said The Big Give taught her how much she can accomplish when she is persistent.
“It’s amazing how people just want to help,” she said. “You can make a difference if you just ask.”
For Brynna, it was the cuteness factor that made her want to help Taylor.
“I saw the website and that was kind of what sold me,” she said. “Those baby squirrels are the cutest thing I’ve seen in a while.”
In addition to the donation bin, Brynna wrote letters to Tractor Supply Company, set up a GoFundMe and chipped in $100 from her own allowance. In the end, she gave Taylor a check for $895, as well as $115 in supplies for the animals. Taylor will use the money to buy buckets of formula for baby animals, hand warmers to keep babies warm and veterinarian supplies.
Although her students’ projects are coming to an end, Kerrane said it’s just the beginning of a life-long pursuit of making a difference.
“The most important thing is that they carry this on with them,” she said.Brynna said she certainly will.
“I really like to see the animals that will get the food and the babies that will get the formula. I feel proud that I’m helping these little animals,” she said on Monday as she held one of Taylor’s box turtles. “I’ll probably remember this for the rest of my life.”