Jenny Kafas

A Middle School Student Gets Creative in Support of Alzheimer's Research

Thirteen 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 the summer before last, 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).

An eighth 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 going to 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.

Jenny did further research and found that purple is the “color” of Alzheimer’s disease. Since she enjoys making lanyards anyway, 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 even 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 that impacted me 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!” Jenny continued. “I was really pleased with the response and how much we raised for Alzheimer’s research. It was a fun way to do something positive to help -- even if you don’t have anyone in your family now with the disease, it could still happen and we need a cure. 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.”

“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 Geoff Graham, acting director of philanthropy at TSRI. “We can’t thank her enough for her fantastic efforts.”

Asked about a possible future in fundraising, Jenny replied that she may be looking to raise some more funds next summer … with the help of some friends – a born fundraiser!

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jenny kafas
"I wanted to make a difference,” says 13-year-old Jenny Kafas, who raised funds for Alzheimer’s research at TSRI by making and selling purple lanyard keychains.