Friday, October 14, 2011

Summer Humanitarian Mission Family/Individual Project Stories 2011

When we started this journey as a ward, our hope was to help out people in developing nations by providing them with wheelchairs to improve the quality of their lives. What we discovered is that it was the quality of our lives that was improved.

Mark Suman happened to visit our ward on the day we launched this summer mission and he was able to give us an insight as to what our efforts could do as he shared this experience. "While serving a mission in Mozambique, I was able to see the other end of the wheelchair donation program. One Saturday afternoon, about 20 missionaries, along with a humanitarian missionary couple, put on a ceremony at a small school stadium. Over 150 Mozambicans gathered on cement benches to watch as 60 wheelchairs, provided by the LDS Humanitarian program, were given out to those in need. I was humbled as I watched people with various deformities crawl, slide, and be lifted from the stands to a new wheelchair. You could see the joy on their faces as they wheeled off with new possibilities.

These are the reports and stories families and individuals shared with us with their experiences being involved with the Summer Humanitarian Mission in raising money to buy wheelchairs.

Kim Johnson
My daughter, Alyssa 10 years old, personally accepted the Summer Humanitarian Challenge. Her goal at first was to raise enough money for a standard wheelchair, $86.She recycled bottles and cans, sold snacks and water at her dance studio and she also e-mailed some family and friends asking for donations.  She not only met her goal for a standard wheelchair, she raised enough for an all-terrain wheelchair as well ($127)!  She surprised herself that she could raise $213 when she wasn't sure if she could even raise $86!  I'm glad she took on this challenge to help others and make someone's life a little
easier.  I am proud of her.

  Alyssa’s fundraising projects:

Shondi Partridge
Well. We don't have a lot of money, so we teamed up w/ the Bennetts.  Johnny and I are having a garage sale/ lemonade stand. If there were any free lemons, we would love to use them. :)  I also received a very small insurance settlement, so I have put aside 10% for wheelchairs.  I know the Bennetts have been saving loose change in a jar since last year. The Bennett kids (I believe it was Audrey's idea. Check w/ Alison) want to use the money for wheelchairs as well.  

Alison Bennett
I wanted to share with you a few things.  I know the Adams family has held 2 lemonade stands and made quite a bit of $ towards the wheelchairs.  I believe that the Price family did the same thing, but I am not sure of the details.  

My kids were excited from the start, and curious how much we could raise. Truthfully, we do a Christmas jar each year and keep loose change in it.  By the beginning of summer we had about $60 in it.  The kids wanted to have a good jump-start to the wheelchair project, so they asked if we could donate the Christmas jar money.  So that is how we started.  Then the kids proceeded to hold a cookie stand and sell cookies they had baked.  They also worked in the yard and earned some extra money.  We took care of the Larsen's dog while they were out of town and they donated that money.  We had talked to Shondie at the beginning of the summer about joining forces with them, so they brought over what they had saved as well.  At the end of the process, we had about $188.  The kids were excited that we had enough for 1 all-terrain wheelchair, and almost enough for another regular wheelchair.  Will asked if he could put in the extra $25 or so so that we would be able to for sure get two wheelchairs.  Will is only 7, and I knew he had been saving up birthday and tooth fairy money for quite some time.  The $25 was about all he had.  I asked him if he would go ask his brother and sister if they wanted to help reach the goal as well, and said that maybe if each member of our family put in another $5, we would have enough.  A little while later, Will called me inside.  He showed me a handful of money.  When I counted it, there was about $65.  He and his brother and sister had decided that since the all-terrain chairs were the most needed, they wanted to be able to contribute to 2 of them.  Audrey had put in the $40 in babysitting money she had earned over the summer, and the boys each put in $10 or $15 of their tooth fairy and birthday money.  They were so excited to be able to contribute to 2 all-terrain wheelchairs! It was a great lesson of giving and sacrifices for them.  Thanks for providing the opportunity!

The Belnap Family Story
When I received the e-mail about raising money for wheelchairs, I was so excited to tell Scott about our little challenge for "the children" to raise money.  So many times, Scott and I will look for opportunities to help and have the children help us, but it ends up where the kids get busy and on to the next thing.  This time, we (Scott and I) decided that this would be strictly up to the children to raise the money and at the end; whatever they had earned would be it.

So the week began with us on Monday night giving the lesson at FHE about giving, sacrifice, and service.  We explained to the children about the service project and asked them if they would like to accept the challenge.  My sweet little ones love to help people and so they accepted.  We explained to them that it would not be easy at times, giving up money they have earned, but that the benefits of how they would feel would be wonderful!  We quickly went to Michaels and bought a jar and stickers to make our jar.  Everyone put a letter on until it spelled "Wheelchair Jar!"  Their little faces were excited and eager to fill it.  We talked about ways that they could earn money and they came up with recycling plastic bottles and also by doing chores.  We also let them know that it would be their choice on how much they put in the jar with what they earned.

I watched as each one did different things.  Giving ALL that they earned or giving some at times.  Even giving coins and dollar bills that they had saved before their little service project.  As I watched each one of them sacrifice, and at times be very hesitant to give, I realized that they had to make the decision on their own about giving.  

One specific day, I found a little hand "taking out" of the wheelchair jar.  I asked, "Wait a minute, whatever goes into this jar, does not come out” This specific child replied with, "I need that extra dollar so that I am able to make up the difference to buy something from Target."  I quickly thought to myself, "Did I not explain the point to this service project?"  I immediately called everyone in the room and said, "Sit down on the ground and we are all going to pretend our legs do not work!"  My three oldest children just looked at me like I was crazy!!  As we all sat on the ground, I asked each of them to try and go to the kitchen, or try to climb up the stairs without using their legs.  One child starting to cry (please do not think I am a horrible parent), one child struggled to go anywhere, and the last child got up and went to their piggy bank and put money in the wheelchair jar!!  They quickly got the point.  From that time on, it has been amazing to see the generosity of three young children.  We have talked a lot about those we will be able to help through this project. 

We then all sat as a family and talked about the importance of giving to those who are less fortunate than we are.   What a wonderful way for families and children to realize how blessed we all are!

Belnap’s fundraising jar

Valenza Family's story
When this humanitarian project was first suggested to us I thought oh boy, here is just one more thing to add to the list of things we just do not have time for.  I really didn't plan on participating unless it was just by way of writing a check for some amount to go towards a wheelchair.  Then one day some really smart person posted an e-mail with ideas from some of the families in the ward that were all excited about the project.  After looking at those and the link that showed the cute video of the little boy and his lemonade stand I started to warm up to the idea.  Our college kids had just gotten home for the summer and we talked about it at dinner that night.  They got excited right away and we started to brainstorm as to what we could do as a family to raise some money.  First we talked about how since Mike's place of employment already had a recycling program set up at work that might be a good place to start.  He talked to them and they gave us the green light to come and collect the cans and bottles from the office.  This was a gold mine but was also a big, very smelly, fairly disgusting project.  It did however provide us with lots of cans.  We also decided that we could involve our whole street.  Our daughter Cristy printed up some very cute and informative flyers that we took around to every neighbor on our street.  We expected this to take about 30 minutes and two hours later we had finished only half of the street.  It was so fun to meet most of our neighbors (many of them for the first time in the year that we have lived here).  We explained the project, our goal and invited them to help with the cause by donating their cans and bottles for us to recycle.  We set up dates that we would come by or let them just drop bags off at our house.  We collected quite a bit from them as well.

This became a much bigger project then we imagined, but what a terrific experience it has been.  Not only have we met our goal of All-terrain wheelchairs for three people in need in Africa, we have also met about 25 families on our street and exposed them in a small but positive way to our religion.  It was so fun to do this project together with our kids (thanks to their enthusiasm we actually followed through with this).  We are anxious to let our neighbors and Mike's workplace know how successful we were and how grateful we are for their help.

Valenza Family recycling project

Rich Gerdts
Rather than just pay for the wheelchair, Brother Gerdts wanted to give up something to reach the goal. He typically commutes on the toll road to work, which saves time but costs money. During the challenge, he took alternative routes and donated the value of the toll to the fund each time he didn't use the toll road. Also, he helped many members by bringing their recycling items all the way out to Fontana to his recycling business so that they could get a better payout. Lastly, he and Karen normally eat out Friday or Saturday night each weekend, but they decided to stay home 1 weekend a month and contribute the value of the meal.

The Pearson Family
We cleaned out our storage unit in utah. We took all the things we no 
longer wanted and had a garage sale.

Brandy Moncur
My son Jesse who is 10 years old, had 2 bake/lemonade sales and 3 lemonade only stands, plus recycled once for a total of $119.17.  Karen Valenza donated lemons towards 2 of the sales.  Robby Warnick helped sell lemonade once and our neighbor Kaitlyn (9) helped by contributing bake sale items and helping sell at bake sale.  Another $7.83 was donated to his jar by the family for a grand total of $127.00.

Jesse's jar of money he earned this summer

Rebecca Haggard
Ashley Smith and I did a bake sale to raise enough money for an all-terrain wheelchair.  We announced it in Young Women's that we would take donations of goodies.  And we posted it on Facebook too.  In our neighborhood, we put about 80 fliers to neighbors telling them what we were doing.

At the bake sale, tons of young women and other people from the ward, came by, worked at the bake sale, donated goodies, and bought goodies.  There was a good amount of neighbors too.  We raised more than $127 which was enough for an all-terrain wheelchair.

It felt good that we accomplished our goal.  We know that because of our bake sale, there is one person out there that has a wheelchair.

Brittany Larsen
As part of our ward's Summer Humanitarian Mission, my children earned money to buy a wheelchair in a lot of fun ways.

They started by babysitting Eden Jacobson, aka the cutest baby in the world, at our house. And by "they" I mean Tess, my 8 year old, who is a far more conscientious babysitter than her 10-year-old sister. But we all have our strengths, right?

Since we knew we would be spending close to a month in Utah at Poppa and Grandma June's house, my oldest daughter, Emma, had the idea that maybe she and her sisters could take care of the horses owned by her grandparents' neighbors, in order to earn some money while we were there. Grandma talked to the neighbors who agreed to pasture their horses near my parents' house so my girls could water them and brush and curry them. Then the neighbors invited them to help them herd cattle and show calves at the Cache County Fair in order to earn a little more money. They got up early in the morning every day for a week to run down to the neighbors and wrestle with animals a lot bigger and stronger than themselves. They loved it!

When we got home Emma had another great idea to start a doggie wash. She and Tess made posters to put up around the neighborhood offering their dog washing services. I posted a message on Facebook inviting people to bring their dogs over to get a scrub down in our backyard. We actually had a few takers and it turned out to be less of a mess than I anticipated.

Our biggest moneymaker, however, was recycling bottles and cans. My aunt offered to let us set up recycling bins in the five break rooms at my uncle's distribution warehouse. So we bought some plastic garbage bins and headed over there one day. It's about a 45-minute drive from our house, but it was worth it to my kids when we got to ride around on a golf cart to the different break rooms. We hung posters that explained what we were doing and then left. For a month. Which meant my cousin had to empty all the bins for us about once a week and store it somewhere until we came back to California from Utah. (He is a saint and we will be doing some babysitting for him to pay him back!) On our last day of summer vacation we headed to the warehouse to pick up the multitude of garbage waiting for us. My cousin offered to let us borrow his truck, but I decided we would try to fit it all into my new-- and newly washed--SUV. That was maybe a mistake.

There were so many bags that Emma had to sit in the front seat and Tess and Jane were surrounded by bags over their heads and under their feet. My cousin shoved the last bag in the back while I rolled the window up so it wouldn't fall out. The only windows I could see out of were the ones in front. The smell of sugary soda and rotten juice nearly suffocated us as I drove thirty miles away to a recycling center in Fontana owned by a friend. There we sorted all of the bottles of cans--for an hour in 100-degree weather-- and my kids got a glimpse of life outside Orange County. By the time we finished we were hot, hungry, and sticky. But grateful we weren't bitten by any of the hundreds of wasps surrounding us and that we earned $138! Which meant, with their other earnings and after paying tithes and putting some in savings, my kids had earned enough to buy an all-terrain wheelchair for someone in need.

What a great experience for all of us!

Larsen girls recycling project:

Melanie Jacobson
To meet our goal, we decided as a family on some things we could give up. Kenny gave up buying his lunch and brought it from home instead. I gave up my monthly pedicure, one of the rare treats that keeps me sane when I'm kid-frazzled. As a family, we gave up paying for a car wash after a major road trip and did the job ourselves. It was gross and awesome. I never worked so hard for ten dollars.  But we knew we needed to do more ,so our 11-year-old son James suggested we have a shaved ice stand. We invited everyone in the ward to come get $1 shaved ice at our house for their Family Home Evening refreshments and then set up shop. James and our three-year-old dropped off fliers at all the houses on our street and returned with several donations (because those boys got SKILLZ), and then they stood out on the corner flagging down drivers to come and enjoy the shave ice. Between the neighbors, strangers, and ward members who came by, we earned over $100 in two hours and with our other saved money, we were able to meet our family goal of buying an all-terrain wheelchair. It was a wonderful family effort and we really enjoyed doing it.

The shave ice stand:


Donna Cho
  What I did to raise $86.00 for a wheelchair donation is last week I received the name of a mother who was needing to find an English tutor for her daughter, so in order to raise money for the wheelchair, I gave a one hour English lesson to the daughter, and then her two sisters both wanted to have a piano lesson so the same evening I taught two 30 minute piano lessons and in one evening raised  $75.00.   The mother and the three daughters want me to come back to teach them again this week and they are going to continue with the English lessons and piano lessons once a week.  I really enjoyed teaching the lessons, raised money to pay for the wheelchair, and have the blessing of continuing to teach the three sisters!

 The Carliles
Patrick and Savannah Carlile opened up a temporary brownie business on Facebook and started taking orders from ward members for homemade brownies. They would then bake and deliver the brownies in festively wrapped displays and ward members jumped all over the chance to order the delicious brownies for everything from maternity gifts to baptism refreshments.

Shaylyn Johnson
She and her extended family were able to purchase 4 wheelchairs and have included a very touching story that Shaylyn’s father wrote of her special need twin sisters and the blessing of wheelchairs. Thank you sooo much for doing this!  It’s choking me up knowing that this is something my children can be part of.  It related to them because my sister is in a wheelchair and they know she wouldn’t be able to come and do fun things with us without it.” Shaylyn Johnson

Humanitarian Mission
Thirty-four years ago October 18, my wife and I gave birth to beautiful twin girls. They came to us fresh from our Father in Heaven. However, they came to us with an incredible challenge. They were born conjoined at the tops of their heads. They were born Siamese twins. I remember trying to comprehend what all this meant, and what did our Heavenly Father have in mind for us. The news media quickly ascended on the hospital and we were overcome with the media attention. During the first interview I remember telling the reporter the twins were a trial but a blessing. I had no idea at that time what the blessing was, and the trial was quite obvious.
After many pioneering surgeries the twins were finally separated at 19 months of age, at the University of Utah Medical center. As a result of the separation both girls received serious setbacks, one being stroke like conditions which left Elisa unable to use her right side (arm and leg) and Lisa would later end up being quadriplegic. Both girls suffered mental disabilities. Elisa has coped well in spite of her many challenges. Through extensive physical therapy she has learned to walk and work around her disability of only having the use of her left arm and hand. Today Elisa works as a greeter at Wal-Mart and thoroughly loves her job.
Since then we have had four additional children Shaylyn, Joshua, Nikki, and Shelby. Growing up with two handicapped children has been no small challenge for our children but they have never complained. Each child grew up learning to put others first and to not feel sorry for themselves. Challenges of coping with a wheelchair have not been easy. Prior to our having a wheelchair-friendly van; taking Lisa required assembling and disassembling the chair everywhere we went.  Our kids knew how important the wheelchair was for Lisa and they know how confined she would be without it.
Our daughter Shaylyn drove up from California recently to attend a wedding of a girl she taught as a young women’s adviser while living in Provo. While she was here we held Family Home Evening together. She shared with us the goal her ward in California had made for raising money for wheelchairs. Shaylyn had her brother Joshua pull up the Youtube video of the humanitarian mission to raise money for wheelchairs. We were deeply touched by the video and there was scarcely a dry eye in the house. Everyone then reached deep in his or her pockets for all the money they had and during that Family Home Evening. We then had enough to purchase one of the wheelchairs for some very deserving individual. The purchase of wheelchair meant a lot to our family. Little Lisa has been in a wheelchair most of her life and we have a profound gratitude for this aid. We could not comprehend what it would be like without one.
Shaylyn then returned home to California and each little family looked deeper at the challenge to buy more wheelchairs. This (though not so big for our children) will mean the world to those recipients of the wheelchairs being donated. Lisa and Elisa even donated their fair share. We as a family are so thankful for this opportunity to help with our small donation. Since then it has become obvious to us that this opportunity is one of those blessings we have received as a result of the twins coming to us with special needs. We have truly been blessed having been given the privilege of helping bless the lives of others who have life so much more difficult than we do. This experience has been such a small sacrifice with such great blessings.

Shaylyn’s Sisters as babies and grown up (below).
They both actually contributed to this fundraiser.

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