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At the start of 8-year-old Caroline’s school year last fall, her parents introduced a big concept to the second-grader: philanthropy. How might the family, including Caroline and her younger brothers, Chase and Harrison, help those in need?
Caroline came up with an idea to collect money she found in the house throughout the school year. Her mother, Courtenay, thought it was a good idea. So for the rest of the school year, Caroline looked for loose change wherever she thought it might gather: from her dad’s pockets, the bottom of Courtenay’s purse, between the couch cushions. By mid-April, the box where Caroline saved the collected change was full.
As she handed Courtenay the box, Caroline expressed concern. She wanted to see how much money she’d collected, but she also wanted to figure out where to donate that money. Courtenay does some work for a children’s hospital in the family’s hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, so she thought that’s where Caroline would want to donate the money. “She’s very compassionate,” Courtenay said of her daughter. “She’s a little caretaker. She loves children and babies. And since I talked about the kids I worked with, I think helping sick kids has always been in Caroline’s mind.”
But Caroline’s choice of a hospital to support surprised – and pleased – Courtenay. Shortly after giving her mother the box of collected coins, Caroline saw a TV spot for St. Jude. Courtenay recalled her daughter immediately got teary eyed. “She said ‘Mommy, that’s the place,’” Courtenay recalled, “so we sat down and I explained to her all the good things St. Jude does for kids.” Caroline was sold. Now she just had to find out how to get the money she collected, $40, to the hospital.
It was at this point that things fell into place. Friends of Caroline’s family knew a St. Jude family, the Aikens, whose son, Philip, had recently completed a year of treatment at St. Jude. In August 2006, Philip was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a type of tumor that arises in either bone or soft tissues. He underwent treatment at St. Jude, and finished his last round of chemotherapy in July 2007. He now returns to the hospital for checkups and scans.
Philip, it turned out, was going to be in Nashville for a lacrosse tournament. Courtenay quickly made arrangements with Philip’s mom, Tricia, for the kids to meet during the tournament.
For Caroline, it was a big day. “As a second-grader, getting to go to the high school was a big deal,” Courtenay said. But handing over a check for $40 made out to St. Jude was an even bigger deal. Philip accepted the check on behalf of St. Jude, and promised the young fundraiser he’d make sure the check got to the hospital safely.
Caroline plans to spend her summer riding horses on her family’s horse farm. She can’t wait to be old enough to start babysitting, and when she grows up, she wants to be a teacher. Her desire to teach others is already apparent. This summer, her swim team will compete in a swim-a-thon. The kids on the team each get to suggest an organization to support with the money their swim-a-thon raises. Courtenay said that Caroline is already pushing for the swim-a-thon to benefit St. Jude.
“She’s putting together a presentation,” Courtenay said. “She’s going to tell the kids about meeting Philip and how she’s already made a donation. I’m hopeful she’ll convince her teammates St. Jude is the organization to support.” Caroline’s desire to help other kids and raise money on behalf of St. Jude signifies a successful fundraiser and supporter of the hospital in the making.