Twelve-year-old Joe Olsen, a sixth-grader at St. John XXIII Catholic School in Scottsdale, Ariz., finished a service project this fall to honor his grandmother who wasn’t able to complete it with him. The project aimed to raise money to buy sports equipment for foster children experiencing many of the same hardships that his grandma endured as a child growing up in an orphanage.
Catholic Charities has collaborated with local Catholic schools for years on Miracle Projects, which encourages elementary school children to raise money for those in need, either by selling crafts at a school marketplace or organizing a fundraiser.
When the school’s campus minister came to talk to Joe’s class about Miracle Projects, he says, “My grandma was very crafty, so I think all along I knew we would work on something together.”
Since Joe’s “Meme” Valerie Semanie enjoyed making bracelets for Joe’s family when he was little, she and Joe decided that’s how they would raise their money to donate. “I started the project with my Meme, I used all of her supplies. We made at least 60 bracelets,” Joe said.
Helping Kids in Foster Care
He also kept his Meme in mind when he decided where the proceeds from the sales would go. “I chose the ‘Have a Ball’ program because my grandma spent time in an orphanage as a child and I think she would be supportive of helping kids in foster care. I play lots of sports and the ‘Have a Ball’ was a way to combine what I love and something that was special to my grandma,” he said.
Sadly, his grandmother died on Oct. 4, 2016. Joe finished the project and just under two months later, he raised $250 at the school marketplace for the Catholic Charities project to collect soccer balls, footballs, baseballs and other sporting goods to help foster kids stay physically active.
Losing Meme has been difficult for Joe and his family, but Joe is proud of his accomplishment, and is determined to do little things every day to keep his grandmother’s love and memory alive. “Just doing regular stuff every day, like praying to her and for her. Doing everyday things to keep her memory alive and a part of my life,” he said.