By Shamala Pulugurtha, A.K.O.M. Writer and Researcher
Pink Polka Dot Members Pose for a Pretty Picture!
Quotes of the Month:
“If there was one piece of advice I could give to someone who was wondering how to be successful, I would have to say, “Believe in yourself!”…because the second you start believing that you can’t do something, that’s when you won’t be able to do it.”
Maddy Berkman, Age 15
Co-founder & Current President, Pink Polka Dots Guild
“Taking action towards a goal is something that anyone can do if they really want to. It’s inevitable that you’ll start small, like the Pink Polka Dots Guild, with only 6 members and a few hundred dollars. But four years later, we have 40 members, and a quarter of a million dollars. If you really want to achieve something, you can do it.”
Sierra Alef, Age 15
Co-founder & Current Treasurer, Pink Polka Dots Guild
“Be inspired! When you notice something that needs fixing or needs to be addressed, don’t just assume somebody else will take care of it. Find where you can do something, and then do it.”
Kelsey Josund, Age 16
Co-founder & Current Secretary, Pink Polka Dots Guild
Our May Amazing Kids! Of the Month:
Amazing Kids! is pleased present to you our Amazing Kids! of the Month for May, three amazing young friends who are excellent examples of “Kids Doing Good:” Maddy Berkman, Sierra Alef and Kelsey Josund. After being forever touched by the loss of their dear friend to a cancerous brain tumor, these three caring, dynamic and industrious young girls started their own kid-run organization to support brain tumor research while still in elementary school!
Wanting to honor the memory of their dear friend Sydney, who died of a brain tumor at the age of 11, and hoping to do their part in the fight against pediatric brain tumors, Maddy, Sierra and Kelsey founded the Pink Polka Dots Junior Guild. Today, with over 40 members between the ages of 11 and 16 and several fundraisers later, they have collected more than quarter of a million dollars to support brain tumor research! Read their story below and be prepared for a touching and inspiring story and learn how they are truly making a difference in the fight against brain tumors.
Pink Polka Dot members brainstorm and meet up!
Meet the Amazing Pink Polka Dots Guild
Each year approximate 3,750 children in the United States are diagnosed with a primary brain tumor. Sydney Coxon, the dear friend of Maddy Berkman, Sierra Alef and Kelsey Josund, was diagnosed with a virtually untreatable brain stem glioma, a rare type of brain tumor brain tumor at age 10. She passed away in February of 2006 after battling the disease for just over one year. She was just 11 years old.
Sydney’s friends Maddy Berkman, Sierra Alef and Kelsey Josund, who were themselves 11 and 12 years old at that time, were heartbroken. They did not want any other child to suffer like their friend. Determined to make an impact and to honor the memory of their friend, Maddy, Sierra and Kelsey started the Pink Polka Dots Guild (PPD), a Seattle Children’s Hospital Junior Guild. “Losing my best friend Sydney has taught me to not take anyone for granted and to put my whole heart into everything that I do,” says Maddy Berkman, co-founder and current president of the Pink Polka Dots Guild.
Pink Polka Dots Guild had its first big fundraiser in April of 2006 when they fulfilled Sydney’s wish by holding a community garage sale. They raised about $12,000 in their first year. Now, four years and several lemonade stands, card making events, jewelry making events and golf tournaments later, they have raised more than $250,000!
Over the years, creative thinkers Maddy, Sierra and Kelsey have come up with many creative ways to raise funds like Teen Girls Personal Safety Defense Seminars and Middle School Dance parties:
“It is difficult managing school and PPD, since I take AP and honors classes. But they actually mix well; for example the last PPD fundraiser was a practice AP testing, so I got to organize the PPD event, then take a practice AP test and we raised $650. Motivation is really how I handle all the work; I’m motivated to do well in school so that I can go to a good college, and I’m motivated to do PPD so that I can save children like Sydney from brain tumors,” says Sierra Alef, co-founder and the current treasurer of PPD.
The funds currently support the groundbreaking pediatric brain tumor research of Dr. Jim Olson at the Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington.
Managing School and Pink Polka Dots Guild
Apart from being the PPD President, Maddy is a sophomore at Seattle Academy of Arts & Sciences. She plays on her school’s Ultimate Frisbee team, and is also a member of the debate team and religious youth group board. That Maddy manages to do so much is not a surprise considering that her role models include Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres: “I admire how they use their fame, talent and financial success to raise money for organizations in need and people in need. And, they motivate other people to do the same,” she says. Maddy sometimes finds it hard to manage all the school work, along with Pink Polka Dots responsibilities, and her youth group. “But if I keep in mind that I can accomplish everything if I try hard enough, I can get everything that needs to get done accomplished! You have to make priorities all the time,” she explains.
Maddy’s PPD team-mate Sierra Alef is also involved with her school’s debate team and literary arts magazine: “I love to go on road trips, travel, and discover new places. I love coffee. I like to read and write. I take French 4 and am headed to France soon. I also volunteer at Children’s Hospital,” she tells us. Sierra’s personal role model for PPD is the Susan G. Komen organization, which raises money for breast cancer research by having nationwide events like the 3-day walk.
The third founding member of PPD Kelsey Josund, who is also the current secretary of the organization, has always been very involved with charitable causes, donating the proceeds of her lemonade stands and helping with food drives. Now a sophomore in high school, she is also involved in the debate team, literary arts magazine, and community service club, and also volunteers at Seattle Children’s Hospital: “When I’m not doing all this, I also love to hang out with friends. Sometimes mixing PPD and schoolwork and normal life gets a little hectic, but a lot of time these things overlap. Most of my closest friends are in PPD, so that covers hanging out, and we have frequent PPD/study parties where we get together and work on both things at once,” she says.
Maddy, Sierra and Kelsey say that the PPD experience has taught them to manage money, organization skills, dealing with adults and above all to reach for their goals.
They all have big plans for the future. They plan to continue their fundraising efforts even after going to college. As Kelsey puts it, “I intend to go to college and take PPD with me! I want to study something related to the humanities or environmental sciences, and I really want to study abroad. PPD will not be abandoned, though—hopefully, I’ll be able to set up a ‘regional branch’ of PPD at whatever university I end up going to.”
With such great determination and commitment, and their amazing management, fundraising and organizing experience, we know these amazing young women are bound to go far in life, no matter what paths they may take. Keep up the great work, Maddy, Sierra and Kelsey!
Pink Polka Dot Members
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