Madison’s idea: Why not have all the kids in our community clear out their closets and rooms, come together and sell their gently-used belongings to help fund pediatric cancer research? She had inspired one child. Why not a city full of children?
It was a phenomenal idea, but neither Madison nor her father had ever organized a community event before. They turned to The Cancer Center of Santa Barbara for guidance, a partnership and an outlet for the funding. The Cancer Center would use the proceeds to support children’s pediatric research at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. The Cancer Center and Madison hammered out a date for the early summer of 2008 for the “biggest kid-run rummage sale in the city’s history”.
Madison made participating easy. She got local sponsors involved so the children donating their items would have goodie bags with free miniature golf, bowling, museum visits, food at local restaurants and more. Parents wanted to get involved so they could clear out their children’s cluttered rooms. People wanted to come to get great deals on children’s items while helping raise funds to beat childhood cancer, which of course was the biggest benefit of the Kidz For A Cure event. But, Madison had a hidden agenda for the event—to get kids involved in their communities.
The event slowly grew from a rummage sale to a not-to-be-missed city event. The slogan, “Kids helping kids,” started to take shape. There would be a band entertaining the crowd, The Newcats, comprised solely of children. There would be a kid-run origami, paper-crane-folding table, to send positive wishes to pediatric cancer patients. There would end up being food and face painting, a silent auction and a raffle, a clown and a professional storyteller.
The local media was stunned to see such an incredible event taking place with an absolute zero budget and all stemming from the mind of a third grade girl.
One of the highlights of the morning sale was when Congresswoman Lois Capps arrived to see the festivities. She spoke and told how she was inspired to see so many children making a difference in their community.
Childhood cancer is an uphill battle. Everyday there are on average 36 young people who are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. and cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children under 15. Most childhood cancers' causes are unknown and cannot be prevented. Yet, its research is terribly underfunded.
The event raises nearly $3,000 in just three hours, but it also raised awareness of childhood cancer while raising the awareness of children’s philanthropic abilities. Madison was asked over and over again if she would run the event the following year. Parents and children who didn’t donate items vowed they would the following year. Businesses have approached her wanting to be a part of Kidz For A Cure. Madison believes that her event will continue to grow as long as there are kids willing to help kids.
The week after the event, Congresswoman Capps stood in front of the legislators on Capitol Hill and spoke about a bill she was backing, The Conquer Childhood Cancer Act. Then she went on to mention the impact one person can make, Madison Lewandowski and Kidz For A Cure.
Last year, when Madison was eight years old, she had just cleaned her room. She emerged with a bag of stuffed animals, books and toys. She dragged the bag to her father and told him, “I want these to help raise money for cancer.” And then she headed back to her room.
Her father always appreciated Madison’s efforts at helping others, but wasn’t sure what to do with the bag of items. He finally decided he’d stash them aside in the garage and sell them at their annual yard sale and then donate the money to some cancer organization.
It was Madison’s four-year old sister, Maya, that acted as the last piece to this puzzle. The following day, Maya approached her father toting a bag of toys of her own. “These are for cancer,” she proclaimed, then hurried off to play.
Maya always looked up to and respected Madison. She wanted to be just like her. Therefore, she decided to donate her toys, also. Madison’s father pulled her aside and explained how she had inspired her little sister to give in order to help others. After throwing ideas back and forth with her dad, Kidz For A Cure was born.
Madison had always tried to help worthy causes. After Hurricane Katrina hit, she and a friend sold pieces of art for donations, raising over $50 for the Red Cross’ Hurricane Katrina Fund. She’s run her own business (Maddie’s Monkey Business) since she was seven, creating and selling custom-made jewelry, picture frames and more to help pay for her college tuition one day. A percentage of her profits have always gone to charity. She created a handmade doll for the non-profit organization, Girls Inc., which sold at auction for $100 to benefit the program. She’s also appeared in the Girls Inc. book, More Letters from the Heart: Words of Wisdom from Exceptional Women and Girls, whose proceeds benefit the Girls Inc. program.
Madison knows that children, no matter how young, have the power to help their communities. So, she thought by having the children run the Kidz For A Cure event, she could inspire others to become more philanthropic in other ways, too.