My mother has always told me, “When you are blessed in life, you should show appreciation by helping others.” At a young age, I was exposed to various fundraisers throughout my church, school and violin group. In second grade, a representative from the Ronald McDonald House came and spoke at my school, North Broward Preparatory, about the charity and how we could help. She explained that we could help by collecting tin tabs off the soda cans. The tabs would be melted down in scrap metal place and the money would go to the local Ft Lauderdale/Miami Ronald McDonald Houses to help the families with sick children. I could not imagine being sick and away from my Mom and Dad. Inspired by the charities mission, I found myself collecting so many tabs from family and friends even my grandmothers bowling league. In the third grade, I visited the Fort Lauderdale House and completely fell in love with the staff, the families, and the charity. There I met a young boy named Rahiem who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of four. He was the sweetest little boy I have ever met, and for a sick little boy he had a smile that could light up a room. We were like magnets the minute I arrived. We read books, played games and enjoyed each other’s company. Because he was so special, I knew I had to do everything I could to help him and his family. By the time I reached fifth grade, I headed up the school wide pop tab collection and wanted to start the year off with a bang! Aside from school on my own I collected a fifty gallon drum (over 150,000 tabs) of tabs and presented at the school assembly. Later, I was disappointed to learn that the drum would only raise eighty dollars for the house. I remember telling my mother “there must be a better way to raise money!” I then created my first ever pop tab bracelet and debuted them at my sixth grade Community Service Fair. There at the fair, I displayed posters and slide show of the children and families I met during volunteering. Also displayed was a sign that read “With a $2 donation, get a FREE pop tab bracelet”. Within the hour, they were gone! I had raised sixty five dollars with pending orders for 15 more bracelets. At that moment, I knew I had struck gold.
To date I have raised over $5,000 dollars for the houses (Ft Lauderdale and Miami). I host a high school club chapter of Ronald McDonald House at my school and continue to fundraise for the families. Rahiem and his family returned to the Caicos Islands after a successful bone marrow transplant. After three years of visiting the house and seeing Rahiem’s beautiful smile, it was bittersweet to see him returning home. Alicia, his mother, and Jahiem his brother are still special people in my life. They were the reason I continued to strive at completing my mission. I could not appreciate the act of caring for others until I committed myself to giving back in our community. I couldn’t imagine the contents of my life without caring for people or animals. At a young age, I was introduced to the act of giving through teaching. I realize now going through the motion that life is so precious and the rewards are eternally everlasting in the heart.