Monday, June 25, 2018

Celia’s Pay It Forward Project

Every year, the 8th graders at Celia's former school do a service project, called "Pay It Forward." Each child is given an envelope with $40 and charged with making a difference in the world. It sounds daunting when you're barely 13, but I am utterly amazed at the creativity and motivation these kids have.  There were 18 students in her class. Collectively, they raised close to $9,000 plus several hundred dollars' worth of donated items that aided a range of close-to-their-heart recipients.  Beneficiaries ranged from cancer research to a family that needed a specialized wheelchair for their son to a local family.  Celia's BFF created a project to benefit Hearts of Hope, in memory of her baby sister, Payton, and Celia was honored to be asked to create a heart to share with other families in need of a reminder that they aren't alone.

Three years ago, Celia cut her hair to donate and had been growing it out since, in anticipation of her Pay It Forward project.  She chose for her project to benefit Wigs for Kids, a non-profit organization that makes prosthetic hairpieces for children with alopecia and cancer.  Wigs for Kids relies on donations to make the wigs; patients and their familes are never charged.  Celia's goal was to donate half the cost of a wig, along with her hair.  Through donations and several parties and vendor shows where she sold Lilla Rose hair accessories with me, she turned her $40 into her goal of $900.  She decided that on graduation day, she would cut her hair to finish her project.

Each spring, the school holds an assembly where the 8th graders present their projects. It's a way for the entire school to take part, and for the younger children to get excited about when their turn comes.  (The 7th graders always pay especially close attention, knowing they are next.)  Celia needed to write an essay about her project to present that day.  As I videotaped the presentation, I struggled to hold my hand steady. I am so proud of this girl -- not just for raising money, not just for donating her hair, but for taking the hurt and struggles she has dealt with and turning it into something that will make a positive difference in another child's life. 

Early on Graduation morning, we started out for the hair salon. 

A few snipped ponytails later, she had plenty of hair to share with someone else.

 I wanted to shout from the rooftops how proud I was of her, but she wouldn't let me show anybody pictures until after graduation -- she wanted to surprise her friends with her new 'do.

Since not all the families are able to attend the assembly, they repeat the presentation at the Graduation Reception.  This allows all the kids' parents and families present to learn how the projects affect them.  My mom has been there when Celia has been berated by strangers for her feeding tube, and to say she was proud, too, would be an understatement  (My mother is beyond placid, but I've never seen her so mad that my dad had to physically hold her back from going after the idiots.) I had steeled myself, knowing what was coming, but lost my composure when I heard my mother next to me sniffling.  Thanks, Mom.

She's already growing her hair out again, hopefully to donate around when she graduates from high school.  I have a feeling I'll be blogging again about how proud I am of her.

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