SIXTH-GRADER’S HANDMADE BOOKLETS BENEFIT AUTISM CENTER
Gives Kennedy Krieger profits from her poetry
by Randy Leonard
Sarah Romecki stared out from the podium at the large crowd gathered at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel as she stood to receive her award.
The Outstanding Youth Fundraiser award was presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals as part of its National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 5. Less than a year earlier, the sixth-grader began raising money for children with autism by selling handmade booklets of her own poetry.
Sarah, 11, said she has loved poetry for a long time. She came up with the idea of marketing collections of her work after a job shadow day at Bear Creek Elementary School last February.
Sarah had wanted to follow the second-grade teacher, but so did another student. Sarah was willing to compromise. She shadowed Lynn Sperry, a special education teacher, instead.
“I think she made the right choice,” said Sarah’s mother, Christina Romecki, referring to what she considers her daughter’s natural talent for working with the learning-disabled kids. “They really bond with her well.”
Sarah began volunteering in Sperry’s room – spending her recesses and lunchtimes with the kids, Sarah’s mother said. “Any free time she had, she went to the autism room and helped out.”
Sarah would do whatever she could to help out, Sperry said: “She was absolutely wonderful.”
But Sarah wanted to do even more. She asked her mom where she could donate money to help children with autism. Ms. Romecki, a branch manager for Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union, knew Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore has an autism center. Sarah e-mailed a proposal to Kennedy Krieger just a few weeks after shadowing Sperry.
Sarah began making the 11-page booklets with hand-written foam covers and photocopies of her poems. She sold the booklets door-to-door for $1 or whatever donation people were willing to give.
“We get her all the supplies she needs,” her mother said.
Sarah’s grandmothers take the booklets to work or bingo. Her grandfather sells them at McDonald’s. “Everybody tries to help her out as much as possible,” Ms. Romecki said.
Sarah, reluctant to talk to a reporter about her efforts or the award, was overheard on the phone saying it feels like she has made “well over 100” of the booklets over the past months. She has raised over $400 for the institute, her mother said.
In addition to a trophy, Sarah received $250 for her efforts, which she donated to Kennedy Krieger, her mother said.
Sarah, who lives in Old Dundalk with her mother, now attends Parkville Middle School and wants to work with autistic children, both in the near future and eventually as a career.
“She is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful girl, and I expect great things from her,” Sperry said. Anyone interested in contributing on Sarah’s behalf can send a donation to Kennedy Krieger Institute Development Office, 707 N. Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205, Attn: Ted Van Sant, For the Autism Fund, c/o Sarah Romecki.
by Sarah Romecki
Messes in my closet
It looks like a bat flew in
Look at this mess
I can’t even find my toes
In this mess of clothes