Raegan Junge, 14, of Keystone, Iowa, an eighth-grader at Benton Community Schools, has raised nearly $50,000 over the past seven years to send relief supplies to victims of natural disasters across the United States and overseas, and to provide homeless veterans with essential items and an annual Christmas party. When she was 6, Raegan saw an elderly couple on TV who had just lost their home to a tornado in Joplin, Missouri. “I felt that I had to do something to help,” she said. She began making beaded bracelets and setting them out at local stores, soliciting donations. When she had accumulated $1,600, Raegan and her family drove for eight hours to deliver the money to the homeless couple in Missouri. After seeing the destruction and despair in Joplin, “I knew this was something I wanted to continue to do,” said Raegan.
She ramped up her bracelet-making initiative, and raised additional funds by seeking sponsors and hosting garage sales and other fundraising activities. With the support of friends, classmates, 4-Hers and members of her community, Raegan acquired hygiene items, flashlights, batteries, gloves, diapers, clothes and other things needed after disasters strike, and began shipping packages to places devastated by Mother Nature. With money left over, she purchased tents, blankets, hand-warmers, shoes and other items for veterans living on the streets or in shelters. She also throws a holiday party for local vets each year, complete with gift bags and a traditional Christmas dinner. “After almost eight years of helping, I have learned anything is possible,” said Raegan.