On Sept. 18 in Baxter Village, American girls will help Haitian girls – and boys – simply by playing with dolls.
Baxter Village resident Beth Burcham is heading up a fundraising event, “American Girls Make a Difference in Haiti,” to benefit the Fort Mill-based nonprofit Give Hope Global. The event, focused around local girls who enjoy American Girl dolls, will raise money to help feed, clothe, house and educate more than 200 children in two orphanages in Haiti.
One-hundred percent of donations to Give Hope goes directly to the children. All of the overhead costs are funded or personally raised by the organization’s directors. The directors also work to pair orphans with sponsors to help provide for their care.
Burcham settled on the idea after brainstorming fundraising events with Give Hope co-founder and director Angela Quinn. Burcham’s 9-year-old daughter, Madelyn, enjoys the dolls and Burcham knew Madelyn would be excited to help plan the event.
The American Girl brand has sold more than29 million dolls in the past 30 years. The dolls are targeted to girls ages 8 and older; the brand also produces a line, Bitty Baby, for younger girls.
The event will feature experiences modeled after those offered at the brand’s retail stores, such as a doll hair salon. A fashion show featuring local girls and their dolls is in the works, as well as a doll accessory boutique, a dessert bar and even some dancing. Each guest will also be entered to win one of several American Girl themed baskets.
Burcham’s desire to raise funds for Give Hope kicked into high gear after her and her husband, Brent ,and twins, Madelyn and Elijah, traveled to Haiti with the organization in March.
“It completely changed my life,” she said, adding that she had visited third-world countries before, but was unprepared for what she saw in Haiti. “There was a five-hour bus ride (to the orphanages) and all you see is poverty.”
Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, has 10 million people – and a million orphans. Estimates put the number of Haitian orphans at around 350,000 before the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed 300,000 of the nation’s people.
The trip was so eye-opening for the Burcham’s that the family has begun the process to adopt the two orphans they sponsor, sisters Bernadette, 8, and Justerline, 10.
After spending a week with their sponsor children, Burcham said she knew it would be hard to leave them – she just wasn’t prepared for how hard.
“Leaving was awful,” Burcham said. “I was not expecting the orphans to cry. They were sobbing in my husband’s arms.”
Just hours after leaving Haiti – during one of the airport layover’s on the trip home – the Burchams were on the phone with adoption agencies.
“Our hearts have just turned toward Haiti,” Burcham said. “We absolutely want these girls and we want them in our home as quick as possible.”
While the Burchams are doing their own fundraising to bring the girls home – it will cost upward of $30,000 – the American Girl fundraiser is strictly for the Give Hope organization, Burcham said.
The family moved to Charlotte from the Chicago area two years ago and then to Fort Mill a year ago. Burcham said she has been moved by the generosity of people in Fort Mill and residents of Baxter.
“It just feels like this neighborhood, that people help each other and support each other,” she said.
And now she is excited to plan an event in her neighborhood, where moms will bring their daughters, to help an organization that cares for her future daughters.
“We take it literally when God tells us to care for the orphans and the widows,” Burcham said.
Kelly Lessard: firstname.lastname@example.org, @KellyLessardFMT
Want to go?
For information and to purchase tickets visit americangirlbaxter.myevent.com.