8th-grader raises funds for sick children

When she was 11 years old, Leanne Joyce wanted to hold a fundraiser outside of a local supermarket to raise money for Duke Children’s Hospital.

They told her that only nonprofit organizations could solicit outside their store — so she started one.

Two years later, Leanne, now 14, has raised more than $25,000 to buy gifts for children at hospitals in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

“It’s really rewarding,” she said. “I think it’s really important that kids get involved in things like this.”

In September 2010, Leanne was at Duke Children’s Hospital waiting for test results from a routine cardiology test for her congenital heart problem when two volunteers gave her a gift card.

“They made me feel really good about myself,” she said. “I knew that other people were thinking about children in hospitals.”

Their generosity inspired Leanne to give back. Leanne, who is an eighth-grader at Culbreth Middle School, searched the internet for information about what a nonprofit is and how to form one. She then convinced her parents, Ellen and Bill Joyce, to help her get it started.

The organization, which she named Positive Impact for Kids, raises money to buy gifts for young hospital patients. It is a 501©(3) organization, so donations made to it are tax deductible.

“Leanne will look up hospitals in the United States and contact them and see what’s on their wish list,” Ellen Joyce said.

She said the most requested items are iPad Minis, which hospitals use for clinical purposes as well as to entertain children.

“Hospitals are having the same financial issues as other businesses,” Ellen Joyce said. “And it’s not on the top of a hospital administrator’s list to purchase iPads.”

She said just one iPad can be used by hundreds or thousands of kids each year.

Positive Impact also donates other items, including gift cards, movies, books and video games.

Ellen Joyce said the organization raises money through fundraisers, grants and private donations. Positive Impact has been awarded grants by many national organizations, including Points of Light, ABC and Radio Disney.

This week Leanne was named one of North Carolina’s top two youth volunteers of 2014 by Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service.

As a state honoree, she will receive an award of $1,000 and an engraved silver medallion.

She also won an all-expense-paid trip to the Spirit of Community Awards national conference in May, where all 102 national nominees will meet to discuss their projects.

“There’s a high school student and a middle school student from each state and the District of Columbia,” said Harold Banks, spokesman for Prudential Financial, the company that has sponsored the awards for 19 years.

Banks said more than 30,000 students applied to the program this year.

At the end of the four-day conference, 10 students will be named national honorees and each will receive $5,000, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their organization and a $5,000 grant for a nonprofit, charitable organization of their choice.

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