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Middle School Student Raises Funds for Alzheimer’s Research at TSRI



Middle School Student Raises Funds for Alzheimer’s Research at TSRI

By Elliot Wolf

Twelve-year-old Jenny Kafas doesn’t know anyone with Alzheimer’s, but after watching a film about a woman with the disease, she was moved to tears and knew she wanted to help. The determined middle school student spent last summer, when she was eleven, utilizing her creative talents by making and selling purple lanyard keychains, raising $128 for Alzheimer’s research at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).

A seventh grade student at Franklin Middle School in Somerset, New Jersey, Jenny was deeply touched while watching the movie The Notebook. The film tells the story of a couple who in their later years find themselves affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

“I was upset that the woman, who had been married to her husband for years, was dancing with him and could not remember who he was or who her children and grandchildren were,” said Jenny. “After seeing this, I wanted to make a difference.”

While many of her peers were playing games, going on vacation or visiting theme parks, Jenny spent the summer raising money for Alzheimer’s research. She decided to make TSRI the beneficiary for her fundraising after finding the institute online and being impressed with its high rating for accountability and transparency. “I wanted most of what I raised to go into actual research,” said Jenny.

After further online searches showed that purple is the “color” of Alzheimer’s disease, she decided to create purple lace Alzheimer’s awareness ribbon lanyards to raise funds. She started the project in August. The campaign went so well it stretched into September.

“I asked for a $3 contribution from family, friends and neighbors,” said Jenny. “But a lot of people gave more, and my godparents bought many to give as gifts. I didn’t realize how many people had family members or friends with Alzheimer’s—I received a really touching note from one of my contributors on how important this was as her mother had suffered from Alzheimer’s.

“I had hoped to raise maybe $30 initially, not $128—it went way beyond what I’d thought!” she continued. “I’m just a normal kid, and I think the campaign showed that children can make a big difference to society if they choose to. Even if you don’t have anyone in your family now with the disease, it could still happen and we need a cure.”

“Jenny wanted to do everything she could to help,” said her mother, Suzanne. “My husband Demetris and I are so proud of her. She worked hard and felt very strongly about this. I can’t say we’re entirely surprised—she is always looking for ways to help on issues and problems.”

“We are so impressed by Jenny’s determination to help raise money for our pioneering research,” said William Burfitt, director of philanthropy at TSRI. “We can’t thank her enough for her fantastic efforts.”

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“I wanted to make a difference,” says 12-year-old Jenny Kafas, who raised funds for Alzheimer’s research at TSRI by making and selling purple lanyard keychains.