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Why I Help – A Penny from the Heart Campaign - abridged

If you want to know about a Red Cross heart-warming campaign ask teen volunteers Karimah Crum, Kayla Ryan, or Sydney Young. They'll be pleased to tell you about "A Penny from the Heart" campaign. These young girls are actively involved in this endeavor to raise awareness about the need for bereavement funds to families of our fallen military men and women. Bereavement funds cover expenses such as transportation costs to travel to burial sites, food and lodging expenses incurred by military families because of necessary overnight stays at hotels/motels in order to attend funeral ceremonies, and costs incurred due to provision of flowers or floral arrangements for a military member's funeral.

The campaign was first conceived by Karimah Crum who, along with large number of relatives, got the chance to attend the funeral for her uncle, Master Sgt. Anthony Davis. Master Sgt Davis was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was killed while carrying out a voluntary humanitarian mission in Iraq and has 17 surviving siblings. The American Red Cross of Central Maryland (CMC), mainly through the efforts of CMC Emergency Services Manager Cyndi Ryan, defrayed costs and made it possible for all of Master Sgt. Davis' surviving family members (54 counting immediate siblings, husbands, wives, uncles, aunts, daughters, sons, etc.) to be present at his funeral to remember and honor him.

Crum was so moved by the fact that the American Red Cross of Central Maryland enabled 54 family members to attend her uncle's funeral that she not only envisioned “A Penny from the Heart” campaign, but also drew the picture she wanted to use as a logo — a smiling heart with pennies as its eyes and wings on each side. Crum was joined by her two best friends, Kayla Ryan and Sydney Young, in the efforts to make the penny campaign a success. Crum knew that she had to help other military families of fallen servicemembers and honor her uncle's service and commitment to our country. Cyndi Ryan said that when Crum first explained the penny campaign to her, "I cried. I thanked [Karimah and her friends] over and over, and started making [immediate] plans to support this program."

What is so amazing is that Crum and her friends are just in middle school. They are students at Windsor Mill Middle School and their school principal is Deborah Phelps (who also happens to be the mother of Olympic multi-gold medalist Michael Phelps). Best friend, Kayla (Ryan) attends Dumbarton Middle School, and her school principal is Nancy Fink. Both principals have fully given their support to this campaign. The process of collecting monies involved placing coin collection cans strategically throughout the school locales, plus information was distributed about the campaign to all the fellow students. The girls' staunch determination to make the “A Penny from the Heart” campaign known to everyone at school has inspired fundraisers generating over $700 in donated funds.

Everyone agrees that the young students have shown an impressive amount of initiative to work the “A Penny from the Heart” campaign. They serve as role models for other young people in this country, who perhaps may be wondering how they can serve the community, but may not be sure how to proceed with this goal. Crum’s hope is that the campaign will go nationwide and all schools will participate so all Red Cross chapters will be able to support families of fallen service members in this way. There is currently no budget for this type of service, so Crum really wants to make this campaign a success and see that the families of our fallen military heroes can receive this type of support and compassion. Kayla and her mother (Misty Ryan) plan to reach out to Red Cross Clubs that are in local junior high/high school in their vision quest to spread the word about the “A Penny from the Heart” campaign. Cyndi Ryan concludes, "I think it [“A Penny from the Heart” campaign] has a heartwarming feel that people of all ages can relate to."