Austin Martinelli may not be able to drive a car, vote or do much without a parent’s signature. But the 10-year-old has a heart for his peers and a passion for fundraising for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that knows no limits.
With the support of his parents, he’s among the youngest monthly donors to St. Jude, called “Partners In Hope,” and has led at least two successful fundraisers to help fulfill his promise to give.
“It’s a lot of work, but I knew I was helping kids live so that made me work even harder,” Austin said. “You never say you can’t, because as long as you put 100% towards your dream, idea or thought, you can accomplish anything.”
Inspired by a story he heard on the radio about St. Jude, the Pittsburgh, Penn., fourth-grader became a monthly donor to St. Jude in Dec. 2016 and pledged to his parents, Michelle and Steve Martinelli, to raise the money for the monthly commitment.
“I was listening to the kids from St. Jude tell their stories of having cancer and their fight, and I told my mom I wanted to help save kids' lives ‘cause I don't like cancer,” Austin said.
His first fundraiser was held at his school in December and collected $598; his goal was $100. Inspired by the red wagons St. Jude patients are provided to help them travel comfortably around the hospital campus, his next fundraiser, "Austin’s Wagon Walk," in April 2017, more than quadrupled that (raising $2,500). He has now raised more than $5,000, thanks to ongoing contributions.
Those funds support the lifesaving research and treatment at St. Jude, and help ensure that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
The generosity of her youngest son — she has two older sons, ages 18 and 19 — was not a surprise, Michelle said.
“Austin has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I have ever met,” she said. “The love this kid has is incredible for being 10 (years-old).”
The advice Austin offers other kids who might want to undertake their own St. Jude fundraiser is wisdom born of experience beyond his years.
Step out of your comfort zone, and follow your heart.