Philanthropy at Park Street

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle Nellie Corriveau, the founder of the children’s cancer fundraising organization Nellie’s Champions for Kids, rallies students at Park Street Intermediate during an assembly on April 28. Corriveau, who started the popular Catwalk for Kids at age 16, told the students that all things are possible if they believe in themselves.
Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Nellie Corriveau, the founder of the children’s cancer fundraising organization Nellie’s Champions for Kids, rallies students at Park Street Intermediate during an assembly on April 28. Corriveau, who started the popular Catwalk for Kids at age 16, told the students that all things are possible if they believe in themselves.

It was a beautiful day outside and a group of sixth grade students at Park Street Intermediate could not wait to give up their recess and stay indoors.

At first, teacher Brooke Raines denied their request, but when they told her they wanted to use that time to talk about establishing a non-profit organization, she had to concede.

“How do you say ‘no’ to that?” she asked.

As she ate her lunch over the break, the students tossed around ideas about who they could help and what they could do.

Presley Roose, a young animal activist who volunteers at a local shelter, suggested they focus on those with illnesses.

“I had an aunt who died when she was very young due to an illness, so I have a personal connection (to that cause),” she said.

The other members agreed with her suggestion and then debated on which age group they could help. It was during this discussion that Kids Curing Kids was born.

Their mission, said A.J. Jones, is to lend aid to those battling all types of illnesses.

“We’re not going to be able to find a cure for them, but we wanted to help them pay for their medications, bills and other things they need,” he said.

With the guidance of Jones’s father, who works with the Grove City Church of the Nazarene’s Ohio Women’s Refuge, Kids Curing Kids has taken off. Even with summer break approaching and the group headed off to different middle schools, they say they are going to keep at it.

“It might be rough since we’re all splitting up, but we are going to stay connected, do community service, raise funds and awareness and stay active in this,” said Jones.

For those involved in Kids Curing Kids, starting a foundation was never in their minds at the start of the school year. Even co-teachers Jennie Joseph and Raines were surprised by their initiative.

“We never expected this,” said Joseph.

The seeds for the foundation began last year when students read Linda Sue Park’s novel “A Long Walk to Water,” which recounts the true-life story of Salva Dut, a Sudanese Lost Boy who escaped from his war-torn region and help found the non-profit organization Water for South Sudan years later.

The message in the book resonated and Joseph and Raines decided to introduce their incoming sixth grade students to more teen activists this school year.

They began their unit with a simple essay about teen activists, their foundations, and why activism is important. The topic quickly spiraled when the students demanded to learn more, to do more.

With the help of their teachers, the Park Street students researched organizations to fundraise for and rally behind. Though they had a lot of organizations on their list, they settled on three this year: Water for South Sudan, the Buckeye Clinic in Piol, South Sudan, and Nellie’s Champions for Kids.

As a collective, the school raised over $1,600 to split between the three non-profit organizations. To add an extra element, the teachers invited artist Bol Aweng, a Sudanese Lost Boy who, along with Jok Dau, helped establish the Buckeye Clinic in Piol, and Nellie Corriveau, the founder of the children’s cancer fundraiser Nellie’s Champions for Kids, to come speak with the students.

On April 18, Aweng came out to talk about his life, the necessity for access to quality health care and his passion for giving back, and on April 28, Corriveau came out to talk about the founding of her organization when she was 16 and the popular Catwalk for Kids.

During her talk, she had the students yell and repeat these words: I am a leader. I can change the world. It starts with me.

“If we don’t believe in ourselves, nothing is possible,” said Corriveau. “But when we do believe in ourselves, anything is possible.”

Jones said their messages were inspiring.

“They made us believe that we can make our own organization work, but we know there is going to be a lot of hard work involved.”

He said the members of Kids Curing Kids believe in themselves and their mission.

Though Joseph and Raines both said they never expected the unit on activism to take off the way it has, they are happy and fortunate they have students who are interested in changing the world.

“I had one parent come up to me after her child finished a presentation (on the importance on activism) and tell me that was her proudest moment as a mom,” said Joseph. “She then told me that this needs to happen every year.”

Raines said with the overwhelming response from the students, the parents, the staff and the community, they will continue to do so.

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