Emily Raimondi, 11, of Cumberland, Rhode Island, a fifth-grader at Garvin Memorial School, collects gifts for kids from low-income families and for homeless pets in an animal shelter, and has raised nearly $10,000 over the past four years for people with spinal cord injuries. At Christmastime, instead of exchanging gifts with family and friends, Emily hosts a party for the Toys for Tots program, which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them Christmas presents. And then, on her birthday, she throws another party and asks friends to bring donations of pet food and pet toys, instead of gifts for her. “I bring all of the donations to the animal shelter, which is always so much fun because I love going to see all the dogs and cats and knowing that they will be happier,” said Emily.
But Emily’s biggest project is raising money for the Travis Roy Foundation, established by a Boston University hockey player who was paralyzed from the neck down 11 seconds into his first game. “I was in an accident and my neck hurt and I was scared I was going to be like Travis,” she said. “Everything was OK, but I wanted to be sure that people who had spinal cord injuries would get the help they needed.” To raise funds, Emily sells cakes that she bakes from scratch and decorates. She also hosts skating events and board-breaking karate parties, and publicizes these activities by speaking to classes at her school and making Facebook videos explaining spinal cord injuries. “Through community service I learned that I can do many kind things, and that it means a lot to other people, and that makes me happy,” said Emily.