PACKWOOD — Pekin High School sophomore Makenzie Dahlstrom is undertaking a fundraiser this year that is near and dear to her heart.
Dahlstrom is raising money to purchase duffel bags and hygiene items for foster children. She is doing this through FCCLA, which stands for Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.
“There are nearly 443,000 children in foster care in the United States, on average they will likely remain there for two years,” Dahlstrom said. “However, 6 percent will sit in foster care for over four years.”
Dahlstrom said she hopes her FCCLA project will raise awareness of foster children and the problems they face.
“Of all those kids entering the foster care system, the average age is 8 years old,” she said. “Children that age out of the foster care system — turn 18 while in the system — are more likely to experience homeless, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse.”
Dahlstrom chose to raise money specifically for duffel bags because foster children have to transport their belongings from house to house. They often haul their belongings in trash bags, the symbolism of which is not lost on the kids.
“It makes you feel like you’re not wanted,” Dahlstrom said. “It feels like you’re less than other people.”
Dahlstrom is raising money for a nonprofit organization called Together We Rise. To attract attention to her cause, Dahlstrom has set up a booth at Pekin’s home basketball games. During halftime of the boys’ game, the announcer informs the crowd of her charity. So far, she’s generated over $100 in donations. She’s planning to do one more basketball game, and hopes she can reach her goal of $200. Since every duffel bag costs $25, meeting her goal would mean giving duffel bags to eight foster kids.
“Every penny matters,” she said. “I will be happy with anything. I’ve been telling people to give what they can.”
The Pekin sophomore’s fundraising efforts are just one of her many activities. She’s on the basketball team, and is involved in speech, track, FFA, and the school’s drama department.
The reason Dahlstrom chose a fundraiser to benefit foster children is that she has been one herself. Dahlstrom entered the foster system so that she could be adopted by her aunt and uncle, whom she regards as her parents. They see her as their daughter, too.
Before the adoption, Dahlstrom was in the foster care system for about a year. She went to live with a close family friend. She said most foster children are not so lucky.
“A lot of kids are thrown into a house where they don’t know anybody,” Dahlstrom said.
Those who would like to donate or learn more about Dahlstrom’s efforts can reach her via email at Makenzie.firstname.lastname@example.org.