Friday, July 13, 2018

Four “regular girls” make a big difference in the community by Elizabeth Richards

When children wonder if they can make a difference in the community, they should look to the girls who started L.I.T.E. for inspiration. In just fourteen weeks, these four girls were able to raise over $1500 through their Manchester School store and other efforts. Funds were donated to two local causes and one international organization.

L.I.T.E also stands for each of the students' first names They are in order of their initials...Lauren, Isabelle, Tayla and Eliza
L.I.T.E., an acronym using the first letter of each girl’s name that stands for “Lead, Illuminate, Teach, Empower” started as an idea that Lauren Jordan and Eliza Hill had after their teacher, Jennifer Ocean, read a book about the charity Heifer International. They asked their principal if they could start a charity group. They were soon joined by Isabelle Fortin and Tayla Pelletier.

The school told them they needed an adult to help, and the girls asked Susan Hennessy, Lauren’s grandmother, to be their advisor. “They selected me because they said I like kids,” Hennessy said. She set out helping them get organized like a business, but she made the girls do the actual work including creating a mission statement, choosing and ordering items, making posters and displays, and figuring out how to turn the money they made into more money.

The girls have a tagline: “four regular girls trying to make a difference.”  They have certainly achieved that goal. Originally the girls set a goal to raise $1000 to split between Compassion International and a local charity. In the end, they raised just over $1500, working tirelessly every Tuesday afternoon to prepare for the store on Wednesday mornings.

The girls approached Nolan Cyr and his family about donating to his “Warrior Packs.” Cyr, a cancer survivor, had compiled backpacks filled with items to help other children with cancer. Because the backpacks were fully funded already, the girls decided instead to make a donation in his name to the Maine Children’s Cancer Program, which had helped him and his family so much. In June, at a presentation at school, the girls presented Cyr with a $500 check to bring to MCCP.

In the midst of L.I.T.E.’s fundraising efforts, Lauren’s seven-year-old cousin Hannah Allen was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The girls decided to make a really big push, Hennessy said, so they could also donate money to Allen’s family to help with medical and travel expenses.

Finally, $500 will be donated to Compassion International to send a child to school for a year, covering books, water and snacks.

Now that the school year is over, L.I.T.E. will need to take a different approach to fundraising, but Hennessy said they hope to keep it going in some capacity. Not only did the girls operate a school store, but they asked for donations everywhere they went, Hennessy said. “Parents donated, family members donated, it just started to have a life of its own,” she said. One donation, a $25 gift card from the Ice Cream Dugout, was raffled off at school.

The girls learned many lessons as they worked to raise money. One of the biggest, Hennessy said, was that it takes a team to make a project successful, and that each of them brought different skills to the team. “They didn’t always agree, but they always came together, drama free, to figure it out and they‘ve remained friends,” she said.

On a flyer that the girls designed to promote the school store, they wrote, “We are having so much fun and learning valuable life lessons at the same time! We have a true passion for helping those in need.”
“They already know at 10 and 11 years old, that you have to build a great team to be successful, and everyone has to be there, everyone has to participate, and everyone has to live it to be successful,” Hennessy said. “I can’t imagine what these girls are going to do. I’m just so excited to know them, to have been chosen. I have a great relationship with these little girls and it’s going to be fun following them through the rest of their school years.”

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