When 11-year-old Blakely Stawicki heard about a community effort to help a young Newark girl suffering from a rare genetic disorder, she knew she wanted to pitch in.
“I wanted to help her,” Blakely said. “I found a kid-friendly way to help.”
With assistance from her parents, Blakely set up a shoe collection drive through the company Funds2Orgs. The new and gently-used shoes she collects will be sent to developing countries, where “micro-entrepreneurs” will clean them up and sell them to earn money.
Meanwhile, Blakely will receive 40 cents per pair of shoes to donate to charity. She plans to split the funds between the Save Mickey effort and her school, St. John the Beloved.
Michaela “Mickey” Merrill is a 4-year-old Newark girl who was recently diagnosed with Sanfilippo Syndrome, a fatal genetic disorder. Mickey is in the early stages of the disease but will gradually lose her ability to speak, understand, walk and eat.
Sometimes referred to as “children’s Alzheimer’s disease,” Sanfilippo causes children to gradually lose their abilities and eventually slip into a vegetative state before dying, usually in their teenage years.
With that in mind, Mickey’s parents, Donny and Molly, are in a race against time to help find a cure for the rare disorder, which affects only 1 in 70,000 kids. They recently launched a website, www.savemickey.com, and are raising money and awareness for Sanfilippo research. Several events, including a dinner featuring several local chefs, have drawn broad support from the community.
For Blakely’s part in the effort, she approached her principal to get the school’s assistance promoting the fundraiser and recruited 10 of her friends to assist. They’ve gone door-to-door in her Middle Run Crossing neighborhood to raise awareness, and several local businesses agreed to host collection boxes.
So far, they’ve collected 1,000 pairs of shoes, which Blakely and her friends sort and package into bags for shipment. They have mounds of shoes waiting to be picked up by Funds2Orgs.
“My garage smells like feet,” Blakely’s dad, Sean, quipped.
Blakely’s goal is to collect 2,500 pairs of shoes by April 15. That amount would earn her $1,000 to donate.
Her mother, Leah, said people in the community have been receptive to Blakely’s effort.
“Everybody’s excited about a young girl who is willing to do this herself,” she said.
She added that the fundraiser not only helps Mickey and the micro-entrepreneurs, but it also keeps old shoes out of the landfill.
“It’s a win-win,” she said.
“People have to clean out their closets at some point,” Blakely added.
The Stawickis will hold a community collection event from noon to 3 p.m. March 18 at St. John the Beloved, 905 Milltown Rd. Donations of new or gently-worn shoes are welcome.