“I believe that children are our future,” are song lyrics that describe one of our passionate supporters, 14-year-old Emily Blumburg. An eighth-grade student at Springman Middle School in Glenview, Illinois, Emily is a typical teenager who also has a soft spot for helping kids.

A student in teacher Tracey Servé’s Language Arts Gifted Enrichment Program, Emily jumped into her year-long Project Wonder assignment enthusiastically and with both feet.

Project Wonder gives eighth grade students the opportunity to raise awareness of a cause or nonprofit organization that has personal meaning to them. Emily took things up a notch and added a fundraising component to her project. In just four months she raised $8,500 to purchase gifts for 100 children supported by our Holiday Gift Drive.

Why Children’s Home & Aid? “My mom and dad were so supportive of my project,” explains Emily. “So it was upsetting to realize that not all kids have loving, nurturing parents. Children’s Home & Aid addresses that. Learning that so many children might go without gifts at the holidays inspired me to fulfill 100 wish lists,” she says.

Dubbing her campaign “Holiday Hope” she organized a wildly successful school fundraiser and approached teachers, classmates, corporations, friends, family and neighbors for their support.

Emily worked hard to spread the word about raising funds for the children we serve. From emails, social media posts and a YouCaring.com page to letters to corporations and door-to-door canvassing, Emily covered all the bases.

Her passion for Children’s Home & Aid’s mission sealed the deal when making asks.

“I was surprised by so many positive responses door-to-door. When I shared the childrens’ stories, people really wanted to help,” Emily noted. If someone was unsure or just not ready to give, Emily left behind a flyer with a QR code that linked to her online donation page.

For Emily, fundraising was the easy part. “Shopping and deciding what I’d get for each child while staying on budget was really challenging,” she explains. At $100 per child, she needed to be strategic, like researching lower-priced alternatives when expensive gifts, like hoverboards, were requested. She also made sure that each child received an item they needed as well as something they wanted. Even with these challenges, Emily’s teacher, Tracey, confesses, “I was more stressed about it than she was. She was so calm the whole time.”

Thanks to the generosity of Toys R Us and Target, Emily got deal after deal and stretched her dollars into more gifts.

Holiday Hope blossomed into a “Blumberg Family Operation” as the entire family became involved with organizing and wrapping the gifts. “I lucked out because my mom is an expert wrapper,” Emily revealed. “My dad, brother and friends pitched in too.” Throughout the process, Emily was careful to label and tag all gifts so everything stayed organized for each child on her list.

On Friday, December 8th Emily and her dad loaded up an oversized U-Haul and drove from their home to deliver the gifts to Children’s Home & Aid. It was thrilling to see the truck overflowing with brightly-colored and beautifully wrapped presents. And 100 kids across Chicagoland were just as thrilled to have gifts to open during the holidays.

So, what’s next for this young go-getter? Emily now wants to focus her efforts on advocating for Children’s Home & Aid with state legislators. “My plan is to continue making a difference,” she acknowledges.

The soft spot in her heart for kids has grown bigger, thanks to this project. “I’ve know that I’ve wanted to be a lawyer when I grow up, and after this experience, I think I’d like to be a child advocacy lawyer,” Emily admits.

Our future is in good hands, with young people like Emily. Thanks to Emily and all of our donors and volunteers who go above and beyond every day for children and families in Illinois.