Monday, July 28, 2003

Ding-dong! Kids calling


Raffle money is raised door-to-door

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Four cousins and two friends wiggle on a sofa. They are itching to go outside and help sick kids feel better.

Fortified with cheese puffs and bubble gum, they are set for their evening ritual:

Go house to house. Ring doorbells. Ask grown-ups for money. Sometimes big dogs bark at you. Sometimes a door slams in your face.

But no one gives up. You just go to the next house and do it all over again with a smile. Always remembering to say "please" and "thank you."

"We're selling raffle tickets for our carnival to benefit the Children's Hospital Child Development Center," 10-year-old Brittney Strunk says, reciting her sales pitch for the Summer Tour.

[img]
Brittney Strunk (with clipboard) and sister Ashley Strunk (behind her) head up the fund raising group as they head out out to sell raffle tickets that will raise money for Children's Hospital.
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
Minutes later, she would use that spiel during a door-to-door trek around the two-year-old Union Station neighborhood of Clermont County's Union Township.

Getting to the bottom line, she adds: "They're $1 apiece or $5 for six."

Ashley, her 11-year-old sister, picks up where Brittney leaves off: "We use the money we get to buy toys at Target. We give the toys to the kids in the hospital."

End of pitch. Brittney turns serious. She wants to explain why they do this.

They could be at home, swimming, watching TV, playing video games.

"We do this for the children in Children's Hospital," she explains, "so they can feel more at home."

Brittney and Ashley, their cousins, 3-year-old Molly and 6-year-old Megan Bastin, and friends, 8-year-old Wesley Thacker and 3-year-old Lynn Varner, sit on the sofa as members of Kids 4 Kids. Since 2000, this 60-person network of parents and children has raised $11,000 for Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center while helping adults teach kids how to show compassion for others.

Every summer they fan out over the east side of town. Sales squads hit Mount Washington, Anderson Township and Clermont County. They sell raffle tickets and hand out fliers announcing their annual fund-raising carnival.

This year's carnival - which is also raising funds for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Cincinnati Burns Hospital - takes place noon-4 p.m. Aug. 9. Look for the game booths in the parking lot of the Winnie the Pooh Children's Center, 3962 Britton Blvd., Withamsville.

"Every year the amount we've raised has grown," says Missy Bastin.

The first year took in $2,000, then $4,000 in 2001 and $5,000 in 2002.

Missy is the mother of Molly and Megan and co-founder of Kids 4 Kids. She's continuing a tradition that has involved four generations of her family.

Her grandparents first sponsored a neighborhood fund-raiser for hospitalized children in 1955. Her mother and Missy maintained that worthy effort.

Now, Molly and Megan stand by their front door. At the sound of "Let's go," the kids are off and running. Three moms - Missy, Tina Varner and Michelle Thacker - are in hot pursuit.

They find a buyer at their first house. Debbie Howard opens the door and her wallet. She remembers a trip her daughter, Danielle, made to the hospital two years ago. "She was treated so well there. I had to buy some tickets."

The kids thank her. In unison.

Then they run off to the next house. Everyone follows the mothers' orders.

No cutting across lawns. Don't touch the bushes. Make sure the lid is screwed on the ticket jar.

"We had a problem with that lid one night,'' Missy says.

The plastic jar fell. Off went the lid. Out went the tickets. Into a bush. "We were there for 15 minutes picking tickets from that bush."

Two hours later, the kids complete their tour of duty. They have visited 30 houses. Two homeowners ask them to come back later. Four say thanks, but no thanks. Twenty-four buy tickets.

After making a sale at the last house they visit, the kids scamper back to Missy's home. Megan yanks off her apron and dumps its contents onto the living room floor.

"Give me the ones," Wesley calls out. Dollar bills came his way. He's the group's banker.

The money is counted. Seventy-six dollars. A good night's work.

The kids think about what they've learned from raising money to help children who aren't as fortunate as they are.

"I've learned to treat people the way you want to be treated," Ashley says. "If I see someone who is different and is all alone on the playground at school, I go up and start playing with them."

Brittney says the fund-raising has taught her to speak out "when someone makes fun of someone who's crippled or sick. I tell them: 'They're no different than you are. They just aren't as lucky as you are to do as many things as you can.' "

Megan's learned that some people are nice and some aren't.

"But more of them," she says, "are nice."

5 facts about Union Twp., Clermont County

• Population: 42,332.

• Name origin: Local lore states that the township's name comes from the union of states making up the United States. Union Township was formed in December 1811 from Ohio Township.

• Civil War invasion: Morgan's Raiders, commanded by Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan, invaded Withamsville on July 14, 1863.

• Vietnam Veterans Memorial: A fourth-fifths scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., visits Union Township's Veterans Memorial Park Sept. 4-7. Hours: 2-8 p.m. Sept. 4; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sept 5-7. Information: (www.clermontcountyveterans.com/avtt) .

• Fourth Annual Kids 4 Kids Carnival: Fundraiser for the Children's Hospital Child Development Center and Shriners Hospitals for Children Cincinnati Burns Hospital, is noon-4 p.m. Aug. 9 in the parking lot of the Winnie the Pooh Children's Center, 3962 Britton Blvd., Withamsville. Information: (513) 753-6646 or e-mail: bastin@zoomtown.com.

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What defines summer in your neighborhood? Kids setting up a lemonade stand? Reds fans sitting on a porch and listening to Marty and Joe on the radio? A street party?

Every Monday, a neighborhood's slice of summer will be served in Metro. Send suggestions to: Cliff Radel's Summer Tour, The Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; fax (513) 768-8340; e-mail: cradel@enquirer.com




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