Bringing change to the world

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:46

    ANDOVER-Dressed in his sweatshirt and sneakers, Brandon Jennings, a seventh-grader at Lon Pond School, looks like a typical teen. So does his friend Sarah Konnecke. But don't let first impressions fool you. Both teens, along with other students at their school, are fund-raising veterans who are flexing their economic and social muscle to bring relief to people halfway around the world. The Andover students have created SOS, Smiles Over Seas, to organize, collect, and distribute funds to children in need in places such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic and as far away as Indonesia. "This is a good use of our time," said Jennings. "It's a nice feeling you get when you know you helped someone." In the past couple of months the students hosted food drives and bake sales, but now, the organization has decided to hold an all-out battle for the bragging rights of being the top charitable class in the school. SOS is sponsoring "Battle of the Grades Penny Race," a contest in which students are asked to deposit donations in receptacles set aside for each grade. Students are encouraged to deposit pennies in the container for their grade, and deposit all other coins and bills in the containers of other grades. The grade with the most money in pennies, minus the amount in silver coins and bills will be crowned the winner. "We thought this would be a more fun way to get people to donate," said Student Council Advisor Wendy Buttner, who guides the SOS students. Part of the money collected from this fundraiser will be used to buy school supplies for children in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Buttner visited those countries over the summer and her experiences motivated the local students to mobilize. "When I first heard of this, I felt I should do something," said Lauren Cappadona, a fourth-grader and one of the student leaders. "They need a lot of (school) supplies. We have so much and they have so little," said seventh-grader Larissa Esposito, a member of SOS. In addition to helping children in this hemisphere, SOS is also extending its helping hand to children affected by the December tsunami. Part of the money collected will be sent to the area to be distributed by a relief agency. Both the students and the advisor credit the Andover community with the success of past fundraisers. As an example of the charitable nature of the local residents they tell of the bake sale held two weeks ago in which some parents paid double for an item as a way to support the students' efforts. The sale raised $120. "It's really great that the people get involved like that," said Jennings. "They go the extra mile." The Battle of the Grades will continue for the remainder of the month. In addition, the SOS students are holding a bracelet and Lip Pop sale. The Student Council for its part, will donate the profits of a school dance to be held this weekend to the cause. Last week just hours after the Battle of the Grades was officially started, the containers already showed signs of activity. The students knew their bragging rights, and more importantly, the well-being of children like themselves was at stake. "Send in pennies," pleaded Cappadona to the students and the community. "And that's about it."