Film spurs GH girl to action

A documentary inspired Sydney Bylsma to get her school involved in making a difference.
Krystle Wagner
May 4, 2014

The White Pines Middle School fifth-grader said she felt compelled to take action after watching “It’s a Girl,” which looks at why 200 million girls in India, China and other parts of the world are killed, aborted and abandoned.

After pitching her fundraising idea to Principal Mike Shelton, White Pines staff and the school’s Student Council, Bylsma led a fundraiser for Women At Risk International, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization.

White Pines students sold Hope bracelets for $2.25 and rubberband bracelets for $1. They also sold candy and collected crayons during the weeklong fundraiser.

They raised $913 and collected 97.2 pounds of crayons, which will be melted into newer crayons and shipped to orphanages.

Bylsma said her goal was $100, and seeing the final total made her feel “really excited.”

Fifth-grade teacher Alex Harsay said the 11-year-old wrote about her goals during an assignment that asked students to write about the changes they would like to see in the world, and what they would need to do to achieve those goals.

“I was pretty blown away with everything they came up with,” Harsay said of the essays.

Bylsma’s friend, Maddie Mulvahill, has supported Bylsma and helped her create new ideas to raise money. Mulvahill, 11, said she was happy Bylsma’s idea promoted change.

After the fundraiser, Bylsma toured the Women At Risk International facility and met the employees. She said the experience made her feel like there are others who care about the same issues.

“I felt like I wasn’t in it alone,” she said.

Bylsma said she plans to hold another fundraiser this summer and reach out to a broader audience. She also has plans to continue her efforts by moving to India and helping build more safe houses.

“I just know God is telling me to do this,” she said. “I see people getting hurt, and I can’t live with that.”

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