Defying a teen stereotype by caring

Fund: Pikesville High senior Jenna Newman has raised $10,000 for a foundation she created to help disabled children.

April 22, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Lots of teen-agers ask their parents for money, but 17-year- old Jenna Newman asks her friends, her neighbors, even complete strangers - all to help disabled children and their families.

Over the past year, the Pikesville High School senior's fund-raising efforts have yielded $10,000 for a charitable foundation she created.

When she was a junior, Jenna was an intern at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, which serves children with disabilities. She saw firsthand that "it is very hard when you have a disabled child, financially," she said. "I was seeing the families struggling."

She went to her parents, Susan and Arvin Newman of Mount Washington, and asked them what would be involved in starting a foundation. They thought it was a good idea and helped her organize the Jenna Fund. They also received technical assistance from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, which holds and distributes the money under Jenna's direction.

"You have to be willing to ask people for money, and that can be hard," Susan Newman said. But Jenna is "a good talker, and she's persuasive and determined."

Jenna asked businesses to donate prizes and sold raffle tickets for a tennis racket, a trip to Atlantic City, a facial and other items.

She asked a local printer to help her make donation cards, which can be given as gifts to show money was given in honor of a person or occasion. Then she asked people to buy six of the cards for $25. For her 17th birthday, she had a party and asked that in lieu of presents, her friends and neighbors donate to the fund.

She kept asking until she reached $10,000, which she will give to organizations that help disabled children and to several families who want to send a child with a disability to camp.

"I'm very persistent ... and outgoing," Jenna said. "It wasn't hard for me to approach people."

Dorothy Hardin, the principal at Pikesville High School, said, "Adults would have trouble raising that kind of money."

Jenna still makes time for her schoolwork and loves sports. She played varsity badminton for four years and enjoys softball, tennis and skiing. "I love to be with my friends. I love to shop," she said. "I love to keep busy. I don't like to sit at home."

She plans to continue raising money for the Jenna Fund this summer and keep up with the project after she goes to Indiana University in the fall to study psychology. One tool that will help is www.jennafund.org, a Web site she created with her aunt.

Jenna's work earned her the recognition of the Baltimore County Board of Education in a ceremony in February and the Maryland Student Service Alliance "Service Star" award.

But the project has other rewards.

"The experience has made me a stronger person," she said. "I am more educated about problems in our society." She has also learned about fund raising, met a lot of people in her community and enjoyed the project.

Hardin said Jenna's commitment to others is extraordinary: "There's a stereotype about teen-agers that she just defies by her caring."

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