One Student’s Charitable Efforts Spread to Other Elementary Schools | News, Sports, Jobs
AMSTERDAM — When Sofia Harrienger told her parents a few years ago that she wanted “make a donation” her birthday at the local animal shelter instead of getting presents, it came as a surprise.
“She came up to us and said, I have enough stuff, can I just give my birthday,” remembers his mother Lara Kulpa. She was only 7 years old at the time.
Since then, Harrienger has continued to collect donations to support area organizations on his birthday, and the effort has grown every year. Her family formed the non-profit Creating Hope Foundation when the new custom became an enduring tradition.
“When others feel good because of an action I’ve done, it makes me feel good.” said Harrienger, a fifth grader at Tecler Elementary School.
For his 10th birthday last month, Harrienger set a goal to raise $5,000 to support the Melodies Center at Albany Medical Center and families dealing with childhood cancer after seeing the care his own friend received there.
“My friend, he had cancer when he was five,” said Harrienger. “I liked the way they were doing things with him.”
Harrienger raised money for the cause by selling bottled water at garage sales and through an online art auction hosted by his family.
The fundraising initiative spread to area elementary schools that energized children after Greater Amsterdam School District administrators learned of the effort.
“We focus a lot on teaching students to become leaders here, Sofia is definitely a role model for that,” said Tecler director John Miller.
District Superintendent Richard Ruberti suggested holding a school-wide fundraising contest known as the Coin Wars. Students and staff donated coins to the effort in jars in each classroom, but the color of their coins was key to the contest.
Silver coins counted towards the total amount of funds raised, while copper coins counted towards the amount. Anyone could drop change into the copper jar in any classroom. The score with the highest total at the end would win a pizza night.
“Makes It Fun” said Ruberti. “The beauty is that all the money raised goes towards the whole goal.”
The competition was a hit with Harienger and his classmates. The children raided their family’s coin jars and urged their parents to get to the bank before school. Collected coins filled mason jars, tumblers and plastic bins.
“The whole school was so excited because she could help others and was a bit competitive between classes,” said Miller, who estimated the contributions raised easily weighed more than 100 pounds.
Tecler’s fourth-grade class won the coin war and the school raised $1,847 for the fight against childhood cancer. Donations from community members rounded the sum up to $2,000.
Over $2,500 in total was donated as part of the fundraising effort that was launched at Tecler, Marie Curie and McNulty elementary schools. With the money she had already raised, Harrienger was able to exceed her goal of $5,000.
“It was better than anyone had ever dreamed of” Kulpa said. “It was one thing for all of us to start it, but it was everyone else who was involved who really made it happen and we’re very grateful for that.”
Harrienger plans to use the surplus for his birthday fundraising effort next year to help more families battling cancer.
“The more I broadcast and inspire people, the more it’s going to go around and make more people happy,” said Harrienger. Although she will be entering middle school in the fall, vice-principal Robert Hisert suggested that Harrienger return to Tecler next year to talk to students about her fundraising efforts and continue hosting coin wars at Tecler. . School officials eagerly agreed.
“As a district, we continue to try to instill these values in our students and families to give back as much as possible and to recognize the positive,” said Ruberti. “To be able to bring the community together with a 10-year-old doing it is amazing.”
“The world could use more Sofias,” he added. “I couldn’t be more proud of you.”