|From L To R: Bella Darke, Franee Barthel, Angela Penza, Patty Decker (Mary's Meals USA), Brianna Doyle and Kalina Burns|
Teens for Mary's Meals is a fundraising group of high schoolers in Santa Barbara, California that consists of Kalina Burns, Franee Barthel, Bella Darke, Brianna Doyle, and Angela Penza. It got started in April of 2013 when Kalina and Angela first saw the Mary's Meals documentary Child 31 at their church youth group. Immediately they told their friends about Mary's Meals and the five of them had their first 'Teens for Mary's Meals' meeting at lunch in their math teacher's classroom.
Did you all know each other before started TFMM’s?
Before we started fundraising together, we all knew each other from school and sports and were all relatively good friends. However, through the constant working together and sharing in joy and prayer, we've become an inseparable group.
What has been your biggest fundraiser?
So far the largest fundraising event we've done has been at our Church's confirmation sponsor night. With over 500 people in attendance, we started off the night with a screening of Child 31, followed by a talk from the amazing Patty Decker, and lastly we showed our short YouTube video and each member of our group gave a short testimonial. We received more donations than we ever expected and our Holy Mother's intervention was so obvious and amazing!
Share a little bit about yourself:
Franee - I was born in Germany and moved to America when I was 2. I am a Sophomore in High School and I love to play soccer, eat Nutella, and spend time with my brothers. I love meeting new people and going on adventures with my friends.
Kalina - I like to spend my time doing hot yoga and hanging out with my two wonderful beautiful dogs.
Bella - When I'm not outside working in my garden, you'll find me watercoloring in my sketchbook or lost in a wonderful novel. I love to volunteer at the Dream Foundation, a non profit started in town, and have been involved with them for over 6 years.
Brianna - I love to play soccer, stroke my fluffy kitties, draw in my sketchbook, and eat delicious foods.
Angela- Fundraising for Mary's Meals has become one of the best parts of my life, but besides that I like to spend time outdoors, knit, watch Sherlock, and I hope to travel all over the world during my life.
How much have you raised so far?
As of Jan 21st 2014 we have raised around $25,665
What are your future goals for Teens for Mary’s Meals?
Right now we are headed toward a goal of $31,000 which will fund the completion of 2 school kitchens and a feeding program. Once we reach our current goal, hopefully we will also be able to raise enough for a second feeding program. Despite the numbers, our long term goal is really just to raise as much money for Mary's Meals as we can before we separate and go to college.
How has your experience bolstered your faith in Christ and His plan for us?
In many ways, this experience has brought the five of us together through the goal of serving God. It has also opened our eyes to the mysterious and amazing ways that the Holy Spirit has been working in our lives. There have been awestruck "mountain-top" moments where we have felt the love of God and the Blessed Mother, but there have also been moments where we lose sight of His plan for us. In those moments, we have struggled with humility and maintaining our prayer lives. In all, despite the ups and downs, we will always have something tying us together as friends and holding us close to Christ. It has been a blessing that Mary's Meals came into our lives, because it has changed them forever!
Do you have any tips for people who want to get involved with fundraising for any charity? (not just Mary’s Meals)
We would encourage anyone interested in fundraising to find a group of friends that will support you. It's always easier to do things when you're not alone. Also, get in touch with the charity you are fundraising for and make sure they know who you are. We luckily developed a great relationship with the Mary's Meals coordinator, Patty Decker, and she has been such great help to us. Besides your friends, make sure that your family knows about your ambitions (we sent out over 100 letters to friends and family, leading to lots of support and donations). If you are affiliated with a church, get in touch with your priest or youth minister and see how you can spread the word through your faith. Overall, we've learned that making connections with people is the most important part of fundraising.