Teens want to help kids

PAT FRIDGEN
A Greencastle-Antrim Middle School initiative this year for teachers, students and administrators is 'Personal Best.' Principal Mark Herman cited Shanell Blubaugh, left, and Shelby Smith with achieving just that for their project to benefit children from a poor community in Kentucky.

Two year 'round diehard softball players know what it's like to have sports equipment available for practices and games. So when they were inspired to do something for others, it was natural that athletics become part of the picture.

Shanell Blubaugh and Shelby Smith, both 13 and in eighth grade at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School, were paying attention at last year's Make A Difference Day presentation during a school assembly. A young lady from another community told the students how she and her school had built a home for a woman whose house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

After homecoming, the two friends were eating at McDonald's when the idea hit them. They named their project Teens Helping Teens, with the goal to help underprivileged children. Part of that would include funding for sports equipment.

Librarian Jill Thompson helped them research possible recipients and came up with the town of Albany in Clinton County, Kentucky.

"In their school 80 percent of the children are on free or reduced lunch and many live with their grandparents," said Shanell.

The girls met with principal Mark Herman to lay out their plan. They contacted the director of the Albany YMCA and the director of its after school program.

"They graciously accepted our offer," said Shelby.

"We answered their prayers, they said," added Shanell.

With a goal to collect $4,000 this fall, the two got busy. They contacted local businesses for donations. They promoted THT in the middle school and set out collection jars in homerooms. The eighth-grade class dedicated its Make A Difference Day event Oct. 23 to the project. The money raised from the Skate-a-thon went to THT. That brought in $1,500 in three hours. The girls hope to approach the public during Heritage Christmas.

Funds raised to date are $2,840.03. "Anyone have a spare 97 cents?" asked Shelby.

The YMCA will use the money to pay building rent for the after school program, which lost its federal funding. Money will also go towards new sports equipment and some payment to the volunteers who help out.

Shanell explained why. "It's a great program for over 100 kids. The volunteers do a lot for those kids every day. They give homework help and provide play time."

Albany has a population of 2,200. The median income for a family is $22,600 and half the children under age 18 live below the poverty line.