Girls spend summer collecting donations for favorite causes

They might be small, but they’ve accomplished big things.

Following are the stories of two area grade schoolers who have made a difference in the lives of others through summer-long fundraising efforts.

At age 10, Abby Enck of Crystal Lake has spent the past three summers raising money for donations of both cash and supplies to the Child Life Program at Advocate Lutheran General Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge.

In McHenry, 11-year-old Jade Woo has raised about $15,000 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

They didn’t do it to inspire others, but that’s exactly what they’ve done.

“If everybody could just be a little like [Jade], the world would be a much better place,” her mother, Linda, said.

‘It makes me feel good because they’re happy.’

Abby raised about $1,036 for the hospital this summer, donating a playhouse, outdoor toy box, basketball set, playground balls, hula hoops, chalk and a bubble machine.

And she’s not done yet. She still plans to buy more toys and give the hospital a gift certificate.

“It helps patients and their families who have been in the hospital for awhile and they just don’t have anything really fun to do,” said Abby, the daughter of Becki and Tim Enck of Crystal Lake. “It makes me feel good because they’re happy.

“One of the patients, I think I made her day,” she said. “She was laughing and giggling because she saw the bubbles.”

Through her latest “Fun in the Sun ... Pediatric Patients Shine!” project, Abby hand-painted sand buckets, filled them with a beach ball, sidewalk chalk and a squirting fish toy and sold them for $8 each.

The inspiration behind Abby’s efforts always has been her 9-year-old brother, Cameron, who has cerebral palsy.

Born 19 months after Abby, Cameron was 7 weeks old when it was discovered he’d suffered brain damage from a meningitis infection.

Abby has been by his side through numerous specialist appointments and therapy sessions.

“When my brother was in the hospital, they would always take me down and do art projects with me and play with me, so I decided I wanted to give back to them,” Abby said.

It all began with a lemonade stand several years ago. Her mother said she could either keep the $4.50 she raised with friends, or donate it and she’d match the amount.

Abby had noticed the office of Cameron’s neurologist, Dr. Nishant Shah, was short on crayons, so she decided to buy some at 25 cents a box. She earned enough money to donate 36 boxes.

The next summer, she sold lemonade kits, made of water bottles and packets of lemonade proclaiming, “When life gives you lemons, COLOR!”

At $1 a kit, she raised enough money to donate 1,009 boxes of crayons, 140 boxes of markers and 125 boxes of colored pencils. She decided then to do a project every year.

Another project involved popcorn kits with “admit one” tags that explained where the donations would go. At a minimum $5 each, the kits raised $984, enough to buy 22 DVDs, microwave popcorn and move candy so the Child Life Program could reinstate monthly movie nights for patients and their families.

She also donated a gift card so staff could buy movies and supplies for teens and young adults as well.

“I know what I’m going to do next year, but it’s a surprise project,” she said. “It takes me the whole summer with everything like buying the stuff, raising the money, selling them, ... but I still have time for other stuff to do too.”

She and her brother love to play outside, she said, “every day, all day long, except if it’s pouring rain.”

The two help one another, said her mother, Becki. Through all that Cameron has gone through, Abby has been there for him, she said. The family was immersed in the diagnosis and therapy and treatments in the beginning, she said, but there were “so many playful moments too.”

“Abby has been in the midst of some very hard times, some scary times, being in and out of the hospital, she’s been able to pull the positive out of it,” Becki said.

The family always has been thankful for the child life specialists, who help guide patients through procedures but also take care of siblings.

Because of Abby’s experiences and “my brother,” she said she wants to be a special education teacher. She’s helped Cameron learn to walk, taught him to roller skate.

“He’s always tried to keep up with her,” Becki said.

“She’s made Cam who he is,” Becki said. “It’s like he has a little therapist in our house at all times. ...

“She’ll never say, ‘He can’t do that.’ She’ll say, ‘It might take him longer, but he’ll get it.’ ”

‘Anyone can make a difference no matter what they do.’

Because of Jade Woo, more than $10,000 has been donated to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

Jade, the daughter of Linda and Tony Woo, of McHenry, leads a walking team every year at Chicago’s Soldier Field to raise money for the foundation. She seeks donations from family and friends and encouraged area businesses to take part in a silent auction.

“I do it every year from January till June. I’ve spent a tone of time on it,” she said. “Hopefully, one day they could find a cure so then people don’t have to suffer and stuff.”

The family has tried to give back through the years, but never on the scale that Jade has reached, said her mother, Linda. She’s also collected children’s books for the pediatric units of hospitals for a couple years.

Along with the fundraising, she recruits up to 20 or so people a year to walk on her team annually. She found out about the walk when she was 8 years old and told her mother, “I would like to go that and maybe raise some money for it.”

“Jade pretty much paved the way for this. ... She’s phenomenal,” her mother said. “She’s got a generous heart, and cares so much about everyone.”

Diagnosed as a baby with Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease, Jade goes for treatments every eight weeks or so and takes medication, but hasn’t focused on the disease.

“I’ve been doing OK, actually,” she said.

“Well, I would say that there can always be worse things that can happen to you, and you just need to keep going and it will turn out better,” she said.

When she’s not fundraising, she’s cheerleading, swimming, reading, practicing her violin or doing “other sports and stuff.”

Because of her treatments, including IVs, she plans to become a doctor one day.

“It seems like it’ll be a lot of fun helping people get better,” she said. “It’ll be a fun day.”

Because of her efforts, Jade was awarded a $1,000 scholarship through the Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program.

Does she see herself as a role model?

“I’m not sure,” she said.

“I think that there’s many people to look up to, but I think anyone can make a difference no matter what they do.”

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