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Teens make a difference for children

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By The Staff

A few people can make a very big difference and Los Alamos youth rate at the top of the heap. Local Key Club member Kelsey Souza leads the charge in an effort to raise funds for Beads of Courage.Beads of Courage is a non-profit organization started by Tucson, Ariz., nurse Jean Baruch in March 2005. She saw children suffering from cancer, blood disorders, cardiac conditions as well as traumatic burn injuries, and other long term diseases, and wanted a way to make their treatment in the hospital more positive. The nurses at hospitals with the Beads of Courage Program provide patients with a bead for each part of their treatment and for every procedure, from a finger poke to chemotherapy to an ambulance ride. By the end of their treatment, the children have strings of thousands of beads that show exactly what they have been through and a purple heart bead signifying the completion of treatment.Souza, a senior at Los Alamos High School, met with the program director Christy Puetz while in Mesa, Ariz., during winter break as part of a Key Club Southwest District Board meeting.The Southwest Board consists of students from New Mexico, Arizona and El Paso, Texas. The youth selected the Beads of Courage project as a district emphasis for the year.The LAHS Key Club, under the direction of presidents Noopur Goyal and Julie Winkler and led by faculty advisor Stephanie Mitchell, have come up with a rather inventive fundraising venture called the Purple Toilet.A purple toilet will travel throughout the community to raise the funds required to make the Beads of Courage.For a $10 fee, the toilet will be delievered to an unsuspecting home. An additional $5 will get the toilet moved to the next home.The Key Club leaders as well as Los Alamos Kiwanis President Dennis Gill and member Morrie Pongratz have aided in everything from painting the toilet to moving it and hosting bead workshops.The workshops to create bracelets are going well, Souza said. “People really love the bracelets and provide funding for the program,” she said. “I have also had many choose to donate the bracelets to the children in the program with little notes of encouragement attached. We get to pick the hospital where they will go.”Key Club has raised approximately $400 and the venture still continues.“It travels about once a day, occasionally more on weekends,” Souza said. “Sharon Stover was smart. She paid us $50 when we picked up the toilet from her as long as we never gave it back. So far there have already been three requests for us to move it back to her house. We have delivered it to about 20 homes so far and are now on our second toilet due to an angered recipient.”The fundraiser will continue through April.“To start the program at UNM children’s hospital, the cost in $3,600,” Souza said. “I realize that the goal is far too high for one high school club to meet in just two months but we are doing our best to take a huge chunk out of the cost. This program is all about helping that one child who didn’t choose this fate upon himself (or herself) to get through each day. It really shows these kids that someone is thinking about them and gives them a reason to keep their spirits high and even just get out of the car to receive treatment.”