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Student Fundraiser Will Benefit Women And Children Around The Globe

Students working hard to find sponsors for charity event

In the nail-biting final hours before the first guests were scheduled to arrive, the young women who had organized sat on the stage facing out toward the product of weeks of trial-by-fire hard work and planning.

"It was just like, 'Oh my gosh, we did this,'" remembers Abby Shulman, now 14. "We didn't know we could do it by ourselves. It felt really good."

Now, the organizers of Girls Night Out — Kaela Wong, Valerie Kologrivov, Alexa Brewster, Kelly McCauley and Abby Shulman — and a group of dedicated and creative middle schoolers have expanded that project into MAD4kids. 

MAD4kids will be holding a fundraiser for Girl Up and Invisible Children on April 26, which will have an ad book and include vendors, a raffle, and much more, according to seventh grader Kim Caccamo.

On a recent Thursday the group of mostly middle schoolers met, debriefed in a large group and then broke into smaller action committees tackling things like finding sponsors, advertisers and potential celebrity guests that could be a draw to the fundraiser at Eisenhower.

"I'm looking for sponsors and posting things on Facebook, Google +, and Skype, just trying to get the word out," said Victoria Kwartler, 13. "Right now, I'm trying to get Abma's Farm because my sister worked there." 

Victoria got involved with the group after winning the art show for her age group at last year's Girls Night Out event.

Across the busy room, Lee Tsapatsaris told us about the documentary he was helping to produce that would be shown at the event in April.

"We're making a documentary with our friend named Q, who makes music videos, to tell people about the club and what we're doing and what we do here and why we started it," said 13-year-old Lee.

"The middle schoolers are really good, really hard-working," Kaela said. 

She spoke about various efforts put forth by the young volunteers including a recycling program through TerraCycle and a book drive.

The high school girls said that communication and time management were key to keeping the complex machine humming along.

"Not only communication with vendors and sponsors, but communication between us," said 15-year-old Valerie Kologrivov. "We have to learn how to meet in the middle between our extreme opinions on everything."

But things have improved, according to Kaela.

"There are a lot more people, but we also have a lot more time this year and I feel like we didn't know what to do with ourselves in the beginning of the club," said Kaela.

Last year's event was conceived in Lori Ebanietti’s Wyckoff Extended Learning class at Eisenhower Middle School; the assignment was to work with a charity that would not only benefit that group but create a legacy at the school.

"We organized the event Girls Night Out for Girl Up... It was really successful so we got the idea to keep going," said Kaela, 15. "We raised $2,500 and got invited to the White House during the summer."

The young women, now freshman at Ramapo High School, raised most of the money for the United Nations charity focused on young women's empowerment and female education, but also for a group called Bead for Life that helps eradicate poverty for women in Northern Uganda.

"This year we wanted to make it accessible to everybody," Ebanietti said. "Whoever wanted to join could join."

Ebanietti helped enlist about 20 of her students at Eisenhower to build the new group — MAD4kids — which has become a dynamic machine buzzing with activity for a couple of hours after school every Thursday.

One of the group's initial steps was 13-year-old Grant Brewster's idea to tag the Invisible Children charity to the club in order to attract boys to the group.

Grant is the brother of founding member Alexa.

Ebanietti belives the next big stepping stone for the young women will be an appearance on the Today Show. 

"What did you say last year?" Ebanietti asked Abby.

"We're going to go to the White House," Abby replied. "And then we got invited to the White House." 

This year, the girls jokingly said they'd probably get invited to appear on the Today Show. 

If students in MAD4kids have proven anything so far it's that dreaming big and working hard go a long way to achieving great things.

Interested in becoming an sponsor or advertiser with MAD4kids? Contact them at madness4kids@gmail.com.

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