Jules Kanne turns 8 years old on Sept. 8. And while many other kids would spend most of their time wondering what presents they'll receive, this incoming second grader at Basking Ridge's Oak Street School is working hard with her younger brother, new first grader Ben, 6, to give presents to sick children.
Jules and Ben are behind an effort to provide toys, books, crafts and more to young patients at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Founded in 1962 by the late comedian Danny Thomas, St. Jude is a pediatric treatment and research facility focused on children's catastrophic diseases. Here, no child who needs care is turned away because of an inability to pay.
The kids' mother, Christine Kanne, told Patch that it was her daughter's birthday in 2012 that led to her charitable effort.
"For her seventh birthday, Jules asked people to, in lieu of buying her a card, give her $1 or $2 that she donated to the humane society," the proud mother said, noting that the altruistic bent continued. "This year, she [sent] an email asking family and friends to spend a few less dollars on her present and [instead] buy some items on the list of acceptable donations for St. Jude for her to send."
Meanwhile, the girl and her brother Ben went to work, collecting items around Basking Ridge. They walked into stores, explained their mission and ended up with donations of goods from retailers including Michael's, Target, Staples and Learning Express. They set up donation bins around town. They hung signs asking people to purchase extra school supplies for St. Jude patients and their visiting siblings.
Then, two weeks ago, Kanne said Jules came up with another idea.
"They decided to start an off-shoot of the [project] that Jules named 'Looming for Jude's,'" she said. "They are now collecting Rainbow Loom bracelets to donate to St. Jude's Hospital. We spoke with a representative at St. Jude donation center and they are on board."
The Rainbow Loom Company donated packages of rubber bands that Jules and Ben are distributing to friends with a request that they use the bands to craft multcolored bracelets for the cause. Kanne said the firm is supportive of the children's work.
"The [company] asked that we send pictures and followup emails letting them know how the fundraiser is going," she said. "And if we need more boxes of rubber bands, they are willing to donate more."
The proud mom reports that her children have inspired donations aplenty: So far, they've filled three large boxes of goods, a value of more than $400, and have come up with about 500 bracelets.
Some of the wrist adornments show off Ridge High School spirit.
"We purchased bags of rubber bands in Ridge colors—forest green, white, and black," Kanne explained. "Jules made little baggies with some of each of the three colors and sold them for $3 each to her teammates at [cheerleading]."
She asked each girl to create two bracelets, one to send to St. Jude and another, in team colors, to wear.
"Other teams were interested in [Jules' community-minded school-spirit opportunity], so we bought more bags and sold more the next day," the kids' mom recalled. "We then did the same at Ben's flag football practice.
"They made over $400 in 3 days. We purchased additional items on the acceptable donations list with the money."
And Jules and Ben are nowhere near finished. Their mother reported that the two went to the Somerset Hills YMCA with an idea: have the members of the Adventure Guides youth program, of which the Kanne kids are members, help make Rainbow Loom bracelets for St. Jude to earn service badges.
"We spoke with the head of that program and she is going to ask all of the groups to help," said Christine Kanne. "We planned a party for Jules's group to get together for pizza, frozen yogurt, and bracelet making to add to the donations. They are also going to help sell the Ridge packages."
Donation bins can be found at the Rebecca Collection in Bernardsville, Learning Express in Stirling and at the Somerset Hills YMCA on Mt Airy Road in Basking Ridge. For more information, send email to email@example.com.
Jules and Ben's mom said her children have surprised and impressed her with their dedication and resourcefulness, and with the success of "Looming for Jude's."
"It has taken off beyond my expectations," Kanne said. "And as you can imagine, I couldn't be more proud of my kids!"