ESCANABA - Some youngsters learn early to have compassion for others, but few have the ability to act on their feelings in ways that benefit others outside their homes, neighborhoods and schools.
But 8-year-old Amber Nelson of Escanaba recently decided to reach out to help another youngster - this girl only 7 - almost 1,100 miles away in Boston, Mass.
It was while watching the news of the Boston Marathon bombings unfold on television with her mother, Melissa Nelson, that Amber learned of the Richard family, whose 8-year-old son, Martin, was killed in the blast that cost his 7-year-old sister, Jane, her leg. The children's mother, Denise, suffered a serious head injury. The family was near the finish line watching their father, Bill Richard, complete the race when the bombs went off.
Amber Nelson, 8-year-old daughter of Dennis “Ryan” and Melissa Nelson of Escanaba, set up a refreshment stand in her front yard over the weekend and raised $130 for Boston Marathon bombing victim, Jane Richard, who lost her leg in the blast. (Photo courtesy of Denise DeHaan)
While thoughts of the Richard family are heart-wrenching to most Americans, it was the plight of little Jane that captured the heart of young Amber - particularly the fact that Jane had been a dancer since the age of 3 and, with the loss of her leg, might never have the ability to dance again.
Why merely watch and feel sorry for the family? Why not try to make a difference?
The Lemmer Elementary School second-grader, with the help of her mother and brother, Dustin, decided to do just that She made it a point to try and raise a little money to help Jane on her road to recovery. Amber used much of her recent birthday money to purchase Sunny D drinks and packets of animal crackers, as well as styrofoam cups, and set up a refreshment stand on the family's front lawn. The treats were offered at a cost of 50 cents.
At a glance
Amber Nelson will be raising funds for Boston bombing victim Jane Richard during the Big Brothers Big Sisters M.A.Y. run Saturday in Ludington Park.
Registration for the race is at 8:30 a.m. and the first race begins at 9.
Melissa made the large colorful sign that read, "Juice for Jane! In Boston! To help 7-year-old Jane Richard Run Again, and Amber sat manning the stand on Saturday and Sunday afternoon for two hours each time.
In the process, the youngster raised $70 from the stand but received enough last-minute donations to bring the total of $130.
"We were all pretty supportive of Amber when she told us what she wanted to do," said Melissa. "If she really wanted to do this for Jane, were inspired to let her."
Melissa said her family was inspired by seeing a child on CNN who raised money to help a friend with cancer.
"This little girl, from what I understand, lost her leg above her knee and will need a lot of help with prosthetics that will have to be changed as she grows," she added. "That will be pretty expensive for the family."
Although there are many requests for donations for the bombing victims, Melissa said she learned of a fund established for the benefit of the Richard family and checked on its authenticity. She said she already went to her credit union to have a cashier's check made out for the $130 when she received word that her daughter was invited to set up her stand at the Big Brothers/Big Sisters event in Ludington Park on Saturday morning. She said she will be happy to issue another check if Amber is able to raise more money for Jane.
Perhaps Amber can obtain a pen-pal in the process and she smiled shyly at the suggestion. She also nodded at the prospect that perhaps she and Jane might some day have the opportunity to meet face-to-face.
Melissa said she is hoping to raise both her children to be compassionate and caring individuals.
"Usually people ask why things like this happen and where is God to allow this, but in reality, we don't have any answers - they just do," Melissa said. "Maybe Jane's family is thinking the same thing. There's nothing we can do to change the circumstances, but we can reach out and do just a little to help restore this little girl's faith and let her know that there are people who want to help her. I'm sure there are lots of kids who want to raise money for things, but they are limited. By doing this, Amber wants to let her know that she matters and that she thinks she's great and wants her to dance again."