At 16, most teens are busy with typical teenage concerns, like getting their drivers’ license, keeping up with schoolwork and spending time with their friends.
Lizzie Dolan isn’t your typical teen. At 16, the Tampa Bay teen founded a 501c3, organized a board of 24 high school students, planned and executed a 5K event, and raised more than $46,000 to help families of children battling cancer.
Quite an accomplishment, but even though she is also involved with Teens in Action in her high school, this event was outside of her comfort zone. “ I was terrified,” said Dolan, who celebrated her 17th birthday in February. “I couldn’t even picture the 5K until it was about to happen. It was so overwhelming. I was afraid to fail,” she said.
As is so often the case, giving back winds up benefiting the giver as much as the recipients. For this outgoing teen, powering through one task at a time and learning how to lead were byproducts of an idea that came to her in the shower.
A regular volunteer with Camp Agape NW, a weeklong Washington overnight camp for kids with cancer and their families, Dolan saw how tough a child’s illness is on the whole family.
“Each counselor is paired up with a child and spends the day with him or her, giving the parents a break. Seeing how much these families have to go through made me want to do something big.”
A runner on the high school track team, Dolan figured that running was something she knew – so why not hold a fundraising 5K? Despite her trepidation, Dolan’s can-do attitude made things happen. The first annual event attracted more than 400 runners. “It was a big commitment but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” she said.
Along the way Dolan met the challenges of planning an event with endless moving parts. She was gratified to meet doctors, caregivers and families and learned that leadership isn’t about control and doing everything yourself. “It’s really about inspiring other people and raising them up,” she said.