Sunday, July 20, 2003

W. Chester girls raise money for kids' charities


Some good news

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] >Alexis Denton (left) and Hannah Gibson, both of West Chester, collect toys to use as prizes at events the girls host.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP - Most girls Hannah Gibson's age are playing with Barbie dolls. But Hannah, 10, and her friends are instead busy filling notebooks with ideas on how to raise money for children's charities.

She calls her idea "Charity Island," organized by children, funded by children and helping children's charities.

Hannah and her two friends, Hannah Barkema, 10, and Alexis Denton, 9, started the group more than three years ago, planning games for children their age to play for the cost of a donation. She started saving and collecting toys to give away as the prizes when she was 7.

"We thought it would be more exciting if we did games, something more fun than going door to door," Hannah Gibson said.

Recently, "Charity Island" ran a duck pond at Freedom Fest in West Chester. She raised more than $300 for the Pediatric Heart Research Association.

"I was totally impressed with Hannah. She is just so energetic, for a child so young to have this want to help others," said Dodie Weisbrod of West Chester, president and founder of the association. "My initial reaction when I met her, I teared up. I couldn't believe this child would want to help us."

Weisbrod founded PHRA after her infant son, Nicholas, died of a congenital heart defect.

Not only was Hannah working to raise money for the group, but also to raise awareness of its issues, passing out flyers and informational sheets on the disease.

"I'm really into my charity fund-raiser. For the last three years, any spare time has gone to that," she said. "I get to learn about the different charities, and what they're working for."

Alexis lives in the neighborhood with Hannah Gibson and was excited when she asked her to join the group.

"I like the volunteering and helping the charity," Alexis said. "That's my favorite part, knowing that I'm helping someone else."

Hannah's stepmother, Tracey Gibson, challenged her to get involved, rather than just sit around the house looking bored.

"I told her to be creative and encouraged her to do something for the community. This is what she came up with," Tracey Gibson said. "Now, everything she wants to do is for children."

In the future, the girls hope to expand the charity and maybe get a corporate sponsor to help them pay for booths at additional festivals.

"When I was younger, we planned a lot of things. We were way over our heads," Hannah Gibson said. "Now we're really set on getting it bigger."

For more information about the Pediatric Heart Research Association visit www.HeartKids.us or call 759-0250.

E-mail kvance@fuse.net.




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