Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School sixth grader Gia Virgilio was watching a favorite You Tube channel when she was first introduced to the Thirst Project, an organization whose mission is to “Build a socially-conscious generation of young people who end the global water crisis,” according to its website. The Thirst Project is committed to funding and building clean water projects in the countries of Swaziland, India, Uganda, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Kenya and Colombia.
Gia Virgilio had recently been thinking about clean water and not wasting water during a water balloon fight. “We are so lucky to have clean water. And some kids in other countries don’t,” Gia said.
Gia started to collect donations in her neighborhood, but she saw that this process was taking too long. She got two friends involved, fellow 6th graders Catherine Terrell and Grace Steffan. Gia’s father Vincent Virgilio helped the girls get started by providing them with a binder as they started to raise funds for the Thirst Project.
The three girls brainstormed for some fund-raising ideas and also consulted with Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School Principal Lois Widner. They came up with the idea of selling rubber bracelets with “The Thirst Project” printed on them for $2 each. The girls advertised the Thirst Project with posters, often hung up over water fountains at the school. They sold the bracelets during school lunch periods, in the school office, during parent-teacher conferences, and at volleyball games.
“The other Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School students were very supportive and enthusiastic, telling us that we were doing a good job with the Thirst Project, “ said Catherine Terrell.
The three girls and their fund-raising efforts for the Thirst Project have had ripple effects. Two twins in Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School’s kindergarten, Oliver and Nicholas Freiburger, also wanted to raise money for the Thirst Project. They made greeting cards with the help of their mother Courtney Freiburger, which the twins sold to family members. Oliver and Nicholas raised $40, which they contributed to the funds that the three girls are raising for the Thirst Project.
Principal Lois Widner gave the girls permission to hold two “jeans days,” when teachers and the student body could pay $1 for the privilege to wear jeans at school one day. “I am so proud of our students for leading this cause and helping families so far away. Sixth graders Gia, Catherine and Grace are excellent examples of young leaders. They are showing Christ’s example here at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School,” said Principal Lois Widner. “Nicholas and Oliver Freiburger, both in kindergarten, are learning at a very young age how to impact the world. They also are awesome examples of love and mercy at our school and in the world today.”
Principal Lois Widner attended a meeting with other Catholic school principals this fall. The principal of St. Bernard’s Catholic School in Wabash learned about the girls selling the bracelets and bought some bracelets for her students. The secretary at St. Bernard’s School was also impressed by the three girls’ fund-raising efforts, and she sent in a contribution for the Thirst Project, as well.
The three girls’ initial goal was to raise $1000, but Gia, Catherine and Grace have surpassed that goal by raising nearly $1,300 to date. The three girls will continue to accept donations until December 18th for the Thirst Project.
“All that we really wanted to do was to help people in other countries have some clean water,” said Grace Steffan. The girls will likely never meet the children in those countries, but the funds that they are raising will go a long way in providing clean water and healthier lives for the children of Swaziland, India, Uganda, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Kenya and Colombia.