Teens to be honored for Red Cross fundraising efforts

After losing a family member in war in Iraq, teen wanted to give back

  • Karimah Crum (center), 14, lost her uncle, Anthony Davis, to the war in Iraq. She was so impressed with the assistance extended by the Red Cross that she started A Penny From the Heart, a fund to help other military families. She pulled two friends, Kayla Ryan (L), and Sydney Young, into the effort that began two years ago. All three will be honored Monday at the annual ceremony at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.
Karimah Crum (center), 14, lost her uncle, Anthony Davis, to… (Doug Kapustin, Baltimore…)
May 29, 2011|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Karimah Crum lost a beloved uncle to the war in Iraq more than two years ago. She was in middle school then, but mature enough to recognize how much support the Red Cross provided her entire family and grateful enough to give back.

She set up "A Penny from the Heart" and pulled her best friends Sydney Young and Kayla Ryan into her fundraising plan. The girls placed collection cans throughout Windsor Mill and Dumbarton middle schools and asked their classmates to contribute spare change to Red Cross bereavement efforts for military families.

"My schoolmates were always really generous," Karimah said. "I would ask for change at lunch, but I usually got more than change. I think it was because someone the kids knew was asking."

The girls, all 14, have continued the effort in their three different high schools and have raised nearly $2,000 over the past two years. They are working on a bowling party fundraiser in the fall, a game Karimah's uncle, Sgt. Anthony Davis, loved to play.

"Karimah was so devastated when her uncle was killed," said Kayla. "Sydney and I wanted to help. It has meant so much to Karimah that these funds go to families of fallen soldiers."

Cyndi Ryan, emergency services manager for the American Red Cross of Central Maryland, said the project "really touched our hearts. These are three remarkable young women."

The trio will be honored at a Memorial Day ceremony at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium on Monday. Each girl will receive a plaque with a replica of the Children of Liberty Memorial, an image of a woman holding a folded American flag.

"Karimah was so touched that her family was all able to go to her uncle's funeral that she kicked off a fund drive to help the next family and the next one after them," Ryan said. "We use those funds to provide a wide range of services, everything from funeral wakes and hotel rooms to airport shuttles. Sometimes, it is just flowers or picture frames or a church program. But whatever is given is nothing short of incredible and means so much to these families."

While the military handles the logistics for the funeral, many family members find themselves at a loss for transportation and lodging money. Many in Sergeant Davis' Baltimore family did not own cars and could not afford the trip, but the close-knit group wanted to be with the soldier's wife and children.

"My brother never wanted to exclude anyone," said Felicia Kelly-Crum, Karimah's mother and one of Davis' 16 siblings. "He and I always did things to keep our family together. The Red Cross made sure we were all together for his funeral."

Crum was trying, without much success, to find a bus to accommodate everyone when the Central Maryland chapter of the Red Cross stepped in. The relief agency chartered a bus and paid for a night's lodging, which made it possible for 54 family members to attend the funeral in Dumfries, Va., and the interment in Arlington National Cemetery the next day.

Karimah said, "The Red Cross gave us everything we needed, even money for gas. I wanted to do something like that. I wanted to change lives."

She and her friends have changed lives, said Ryan, who visited Windsor Mill Middle School soon after A Penny from the Heart kicked off.

"I saw kids cramming dollar bills into the collection cans," Ryan said. "It was so touching to see that kids understood enough to empty their pockets. What we did for her family meant enough to Karimah that she started this fund."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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