Rosie Colucci, 13, of Palatine, Ill., an eighth-grader at Plum Grove Junior High School, has collected more than 60,000 toys, books, stuffed animals, games and other donations for hospitalized kids, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fund research for a cure for childhood cancer. Rosie has spent the past decade in and out of the hospital. At 3 years old, she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, neurofibromatosis and hydrocephalus, along with other life-threatening conditions. During one hospitalization when she was 4, she received so many gifts that her mother said she couldn’t possibly take them all home. So Rosie decided to give them to kids who didn’t have any. “I wanted to bring joy to other kids in the hospital, give them a little hope, cheer them up and make them feel better,” she said.
A year after her diagnosis, Rosie started “Rosie’s Toy Box” and began collecting new toys in a plastic bin outside her family’s front door. Before long, she was not only soliciting donations, but also raising money for a variety of charities through bake sales, lemonade stands, dance marathons, walk/runs and school competitions. Rosie has shaved her head four times to raise money for childhood cancer research. She’s asked local businesses, schools and restaurants to host toy drives and fundraise with her. In addition to publicizing her efforts through fliers and sandwich boards, Rosie uses social media to promote her initiatives and raise awareness about the need for pediatric cancer research. “I’ve learned that one person can make a difference, and that one person can be me,” Rosie said. “I want to further research so kids like me and my friends don’t have to die. We need a cure now!”