Thursday, April 17, 2003

Danielle Cahill

Another underage role model


Not for the first time, I wonder what I was doing when I was Danielle Cahill's age. Short-sheeting somebody's bed? Applying a fresh coat of anti-acne spackling compound? Listening to Elvis? Pretending to do my homework over the phone with Jeff Hossellman? What I was not doing was raising money for a worthy cause. Or throwing myself into a cultural enterprise - not counting the time I persuaded Cherie Glanton that the Beatles were artistically superior to the Ronettes.

Danielle is 16. A junior at Oak Hills High School, she writes for the school newspaper and has been a counselor in the D.A.R.E. role model program. She sings and is learning to play the guitar. She has an after-school job at a clothing consignment store.

Oh, and she is a fund-raiser.

Inflationary collecting

Her mom, who works for Music Hall as an event manager, told Danielle about children in the 1870s who collected pennies to help build Music Hall, which opened 125 years ago this month. Cincinnati schoolchildren raised $3,000 to help build it. "We're capable of doing that today," she told her mother, Claudia Cahill. A penny doesn't buy what it did in 1878, so Danielle upped the ante to what would be "roughly comparable - about $46,000."

She plans to spend the summer recruiting volunteers and lining up sponsors. Because she is not only organized but also thoroughly modern, Danielle has set up an e-mail address ( and hopes to collect money, volunteers and suggestions for a specific use for the money.

"Not a plaque," she says. "Something big, something they can see." She hopes people of all ages will submit ideas, but students will have the final say.

At a meeting with the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall, it was suggested that participating schools keep half the money students raise - to be used in school music programs. She knows it's ambitious, "but kids can do a lot."

They can.

And I am reminded of all the other times I have felt both cheered and humbled by their example. My friend Liz Annett, a student at Miami University, worked her little tail off again this year in the Cancer Society's Relay for Life, then stood up before fellow students who raised $71,000 and talked about her own survival.

Then there's Aly Mazzei, 13, one of the students at Sycamore Junior High School who adopted a platoon of soldiers stationed in the Middle East. Aly said she admires the idea that "they would fight for people they don't know."

The YMCA honored 40 teenagers this year, including Kevin Simowitz, a junior at Cincinnati Christian Hills Academy who works at the Drop Inn Center for the homeless. Roger Bacon students mentor children from St. Francis Seraph in Over-the-Rhine, and students from Thomas More College read to kids at St. Paul's Day Care Center in Newport.

As I listen to Danielle, I am both humbled and cheered. But not for the first time. Her youthful generosity is special and admirable.

But not unique.

E-mail or phone 768-8393.

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