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Bar mitzvah project idea: Teens raise money for cancer research

A dollar a day keeps the doctor away

for The Brooklyn Paper

If you ask most average high school juniors how they would spend a dollar, you’re not likely to hear “eradicate childhood cancer.” Then again, Seri Roth and Arielle Joselson aren’t exactly average teens.

Roth, 17, and Joselson, 16, are the founders of “A Dollar Campaign,” a charitable organization in the lower Hudson Valley that’s raising money for the New York City-based Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Since February of 2012, the organization has raised over $10,000 and is currently in the process of filing for 501-c(3) status. It’s pretty inspiring!

We caught up with Seri Roth and chatted about starting a charity as a teen and the organization’s plans for the future. We hope her story will get the creative-mitzvah-project juices flowing.

Bar & Bat Mitzvah Guide: Tell us a bit about “A Dollar Campaign.” How did it start?

Seri Roth: It started when we [Seri and Arielle Joselson] met freshman year. I had just finished a book called “Notes Left Behind” about a 6 year-old girl who passes away from cancer. I gave the book to Arielle, she read it, and we just said to each other: “Let’s not just stand around and do nothing.”

We wanted to make it easy for kids to get involved. A dollar makes is something kids and adults can donate. All the money goes to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Arielle’s mom works for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, so she helped connect us with the right people.

BBMG: Sounds like you guys are off to quite a start.

SR: We’ve raised $10,000 so far. Our goal is to have fundraisers in every county in the state.

BBMG: What are your biggest challenges in obtaining your goal?

SR: Time! We are in school by 8 am, and not home until around 5 pm. We take advantage of any chance we get during the school day to check emails, brainstorm ideas for events, or advance the cause. But school takes up a lot of time.

BBMG: Are you involved in any clubs at school?

SR: Well, we created a club at school called “Step Up.” Every month, the club chooses a different cause and raises money for that cause. When the tragedy at Sandy Hook happened, for example, we had our club write cards to the school. Four days later, we hand delivered the cards.

BBMG: Wow. So, it sounds like students are pretty engaged at your school.

SR: Totally. A friend of mine at school started “Cake for a Cure.” She bakes cookies and cakes and all the money she makes goes to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. We inspired her to do that.

BBMG: That’s great! So what’s going on now at “A Dollar Campaign?”

SR: We have a team of volunteers who help us right now. We coordinate 30 volunteers at our school, but we’ve had between 50 and 100 people email us to express interest in helping out. The emails are coming from all over the country. So, now we’re organizing a training program that will get volunteers and fundraisers the tools that they need.

BBMG: That’s quite an undertaking.

SR: We refuse to stop until we find the cure. Our goal five years from now is that we are a national organization.

BBMG: And how can people get involved?

SR: We would urge anyone who would like to join our mission to be in touch with us. Information about how to get involved is on our website. You can also contact us at info@adollarcampaign.org if you’re interested in volunteering.

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