Students give hearts to Haiti

Published 5:45 pm Monday, February 15, 2010

Many a humanitarian has pledged a heart for Haiti over the lastmonth, but one young Brookhaven descendent actually sent hers -hundreds of them.

Stricken by compassion and driven to charity, 12-year-old JanieFoncea led her sixth-grade classmates on a three-day fundraisingcampaign that ended with the donation of more than $2,500 to theRed Cross’s Haiti Relief Fund. The fundraiser charged the othersixth-grade students of Tennessee’s Maryville Intermediate Schoolone dollar to write messages of hope on large paper hearts to besent to the earthquake-stricken country, and was carried outwithout any help from adults.

“I’m just glad we did something about it,” Janie said. “A lot ofpeople think, ‘Oh, we should do something,’ but don’t ever doanything about it.”

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Janie – the daughter of Brookhaven native Julie Allen Foncea andPablo Foncea, and the granddaughter of Brookhaven’s Bob andPatricia Allen – was moved to action when she saw the plight ofHaitian children in the wake of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake thathit the country on Jan. 12. Though young, she’s a consumer of news,and amid the deluge of images and videos that aired on TV and theInternet, one image in particular pulled at her heart.

“There were a couple of kids, and one was trapped underneath allthis stuff and the other kids were trying to get him out. It washorrible and crazy, and I just had to do something about it,” Janiesaid.

The next day Janie went to see her school counselor and sharedher desire to assist Haiti’s recovery efforts, hoping she could getsomething organized in her capacity as vice president of thestudent council. She was told to submit a written plan to thecounselor, who would clear it with the school principal.

That afternoon, Janie visited her classmate and next-doorneighbor Jake Rice, the student council president, and the twoyoung leaders brainstormed their idea, typed it up and named itHearts for Haiti. The fundraiser was approved for a three-day runat school.

Over those three days, Maryville students made their donationsto the fund and scribbled messaged across 500 red paper heartsJanie and Jake had cut out for the event. The final tally was$1,277.

The amount was matched by an anonymous donor, and more than$2,500 was donated to the Red Cross’ Haiti Relief Fund. The localdirector of the Red Cross met with Janie and Jake personally,informing them their fundraiser pushed the city total for Haitidonations to $10,000.

Foncea said her daughter is organized and very grown-up, adding,”I don’t know what happened.”

“The neatest thing was they did it all on their own,” she said.”They made everything, talked to their school leaders and made ithappen. That’s just who she is.”