MADISON — As a young child, Lanie Howes donated the presents from her birthday party to a charity that helps children with life-threatening illnesses.
Today the 15-year-old sophomore at Madison Memorial High School is still involved with Make-A-Wish Maine and over the last year has raised more than $12,000 to grant wishes for two children. She’s on her way to granting a third wish and was recently recognized by the foundation with the Brendan Batson Award, which recognizes a young person in Maine who gives time and energy to support the foundation.
Howes, a petite dancer who is also an officer in her school’s Career Association, said she was inspired by her mother, Beth Howes, to get involved with the organization. Along with the rest of her family— her father, Michael, and 11-year-old brother Gabriel — Howes said she grew up fundraising for Make-A-Wish, but it wasn’t until her freshman year of high school that she set a goal for herself of $6,000.
For the foundation to grant a single wish, $6,000 is about what it costs, said Rebecca Leaming, events manager for Make-A-Wish Maine, based in Portland.
The foundation is the state’s chapter of the national Make-A-Wish Foundation, whose mission is to grant wishes for children undergoing difficult medical treatments and inspire them to overcome their obstacles.
“I wanted a goal and a charity that I could be behind. I figured I could probably raise the money by junior year,” said Howes, who lives in Athens.
She started raising money in September 2011 by selling baked goods at football games, hosting auctions and raffles and asking for donations, she said. More money was raised through bottle drives and by asking local businesses to donate bottles for returns, Howes said.
The money added up and Howes was able to exceed her goal — raising $12,000 by July 2012. The money went toward granting the wishes of two children, including a girl from nearby Harmony who had been diagnosed with astroblastoma and wished for a bedroom makeover. Howes also made a quilt for the bedroom.
“It’s something the family can keep, and it made me feel like I was truly part of the room,” she said. “I didn’t know them personally, but I like thinking that I am helping people achieve the things they love or the things they would love to have.”
Yvonne Batson, 53, is the mother of Brendan Batson, a Winslow High School student who was killed in 2001 in an accident with a pickup truck and for whom the Brendan Batson Award is named.
At the time of his death, Brendan was riding his bicycle to train for a Make-A-Wish bicycling fundraiser. Brendan had a friend with leukemia. His mother said that the family has remained involved with the foundation.
They also have been on the receiving end. Batson, her son, Nathanael, and daughter, Corina, all have a genetic disorder of the nervous system called neurofibromatosis, which can produce tumors throughout the body. Still, they’ve managed to raise money for Make-A-Wish by hosting bicycling events in Brendan’s memory.
Fundraising can be difficult, but Batson said she had the most success by asking many people for small donations.
“It adds up if you get enough people,” said Batson, who lives in Fairfield.
“It’s pretty easy to get behind someone like Lanie. She puts a lot of time into this,” said Chris Poulin, one of Howes’ teachers at the high school. He said that in addition to being on the school’s high honor roll, Howes is a leader in her school community. She is one of seven students chosen schoolwide to be an officer in the Jobs for Maine Graduates program, he said.
Howes said she has raised $4,000 toward granting a third wish and that she hopes to continue raising money throughout high school and possibly beyond. She said she would consider working for the foundation after college. In the meantime, she said, she is planning a silent auction in June at the Lakewood Theater and Restaurant in Madison.
“My advice to students would be to start with small goals for yourself and to get help from family and friends,” she said.
“Lanie had a lot of help from people in the community,” Beth Howes said. “I know it makes her happy to do it, so hopefully she will continue to do this throughout her lifetime.”
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368