Anybody who believes one person can’t make a difference in the world – or that only adults can orchestrate change in life – should have a sit-down with 10-year-old Madeline Murray.
The 4th-grader at Hoxsie Elementary School in Warwick would be happy to schedule a time, provided she doesn’t have to miss school in order to do so – she likes school.
She also likes helping people, and has already spent more than two years of her short life raising money through selling arts and crafts projects and colorful drawings to benefit a variety of causes and organizations in Rhode Island.
“I thought what if I made my own business to help people?” pondered Madeline in recollection. And thus, in June of 2017, Madeline’s Helping Hands was born.
Madeline and her brother T.J., 7, get requests for drawings from Facebook or through the mail and then they send out their creative creations for $1 or $2, and always accept additional money if offered. So far they have been able to purchase 2,000 stickers and 540 non-latex bandages for Hasbro Hospital’s Tomorrow Fund, as well as dolls and stuffed animals for Alzheimer’s patients at a Rhode Island care facility.
Madeline, T.J. and their mother Meagan were also invited on a trip to D.C. in March with Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed to participate as advocates against the repealing of the Affordable Care Act. The visit came during a month dedicated to raising awareness about bleeding disorders – as T.J. suffers from a rare blood clotting disorder called Von Willie Brand's disease.
The most recent endeavor for Madeline’s nonprofit – and her mother will be the first to tell you, Madeline truly does run the ship – was to raise $150 for the New England Hemophilia Association (NEHA) in order to send a family to their annual camping excursion along the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee.
To help with the mission the Murrays reached out to the Providence Bruins, who worked with Madeline to have a ticket drive for their Tomorrow Fund night, which benefits Hasbro Hospital’s Tomorrow Fund, where $3 of every ticket purchase would go towards her donation goal. She raised $250 from the drive, and a private company has since anonymously agreed to match that donation and double it to $500.
“It’s a huge deal,” Meagan said of her daughter’s initiative to send a family to the camp. “These are kids like him [T.J.] who might not always get along because they can’t play the contact sports or do a lot of the activities other kids can do – or they can but they’re very limited. Bleeding disorders are pretty rare, so they get to be around others who know what they’re going through.”
While the camp gives kids the opportunity to engage in a normal camp experience with other kids battling the same afflictions, it gives the rest of their family the opportunity to engage with other parents and learn information on the disorders through educational seminars. According to the NEHA website, attendance at the camp has increased by 93 percent since 2014, and now serves 75 families (300 individuals) from all New England states and New York.
The cost incurred by a family to go to camp is around $125 – hence Madeline’s goal of $150, which takes into consideration the gas money needed to drive to New Hampshire for the retreat. However since she exceeded her goal by so much, what does she plan on doing with the remainder of the money?
“NEHA has to pay a lot of money to run the camp, so I was thinking what if the rest of money – after we send one family to the camp – could go to NEHA so they can work on the camp,” she suggested, saying that they could use the money to improve their campsite playground as an example.
Madeline points to a moment when she was half as old as she currently is as the moment she realized she wanted to dedicate time and resources to helping others.
“When I was five, we were driving home and saw a lady on the ground. She wiped out on her motorcycle. My mom stopped the car, told us to stay put, got out and helped clean up the lady,” she said. “When she was all set, my mom helped pick up the bike. When she got back in our car I asked if she knew the lady. My mom said no, but that it was the right thing to do. I have never forgotten that.”
Meagan said that the trip to D.C. is what really pushed and inspired Madeline to take her giving endeavors more seriously and turn Madeline’s Helping Hands into a legitimate nonprofit. She said that Madeline got very passionate during the meeting with the senators, pounding her fists on the table and decrying the notion of cutting healthcare benefits.
“When we came back she was like, ‘What else can I do to help?’ She’s probably one of the most caring people you’ll meet. She just wants to help,” Meagan said. “I’m so proud of her. I’m very inspired by and proud of my kids.”
Madeline isn’t done either. She’s already planning on talking to Hasbro staff when she goes this month to donate the stickers and asking if she can raise money to purchase toys or coloring books for the patients there.
“It just goes to show it's something anyone can do,” said Dave Denitto, vice president of tickets and events for the Providence Bruins. “Whether you're 10 years old or 30 years old, anyone can help.”
To view more of Madeline’s work, visit her Facebook page at Facebook.com/Madelineshelpinghands/. To reach out to the Providence Bruins for a fundraising endeavor, contact Dave Denitto at 680-4706.