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‘A heart for kids’

Woodbury High School has launched a new club called “Give a Hand, Receive a Smile,” where students not only raise money for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, but also volunteer periodically at the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis. The group will also be holding a hair donation drive this May. (Submitted photo)

When it comes to giving a helping hand, Woodbury High School seniors McKenzie DuFresne and Karlie Kurtz don’t ask for anything in return.

“The whole reason we do what we do is just to receive a smile,” Kurtz said.

Kurtz and DuFresne have such a passion for giving back that they have launched a new service-based group at WHS called, “Give a Hand, Receive a Smile.”

The primary focus of the group is to support the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and the Ronald McDonald House.

“The main focus was to help children,” Kurtz said. “It’s about realizing that we all have bad days, but there are kids out there who have bad days every day – they have such a bigger hardship than any of us.”

Helping children

Kurtz and DuFresne first started “Give a Hand, Receive a Smile” earlier this school year after both of them donated their hair to Locks of Love over the summer.

Locks of Love donates hair, for wigs, to disadvantaged children battling cancer.

After donating their hair, Kurtz and DuFresne said they wanted to not only hold a schoolwide hair donation but also start a group to help out children in need.

“We’re blessed with so much,” DuFresne said. “We should share it with others.”

Kurtz and DuFresne aren’t strangers to volunteering.

“We’ve both grown up in families where volunteer work is a major part of our lives,” Kurtz said. “It’s our family philosophy.”

Kurtz said it was important for her and DuFresne to show the WHS community what others deal with on a daily basis.

“We’re sheltered here,” she said. “We just don’t realize what’s outside the walls.”

“We wanted to show WHS that there is more than just Woodbury,” DuFresne said.

The group, which currently has between 35 and 40 members, meets every other week after school to discuss possible fundraisers the group can hold in order to raise money for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

This year, the group has held drawings, sold Valentine’s Day “bear hugs” for $1 and will be selling “Love Your Melon” hats.

For every hat sold, the “Love Your Melon” organization will donate a hat to a child battling cancer.

Kurtz said the group is hoping to raise $1,000 to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Initially, Kurtz and DuFresne had also wanted to volunteer their time at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, but they learned that there were risks of getting the children sicker, which is where the Ronald McDonald House came in.

“We both just have a heart for kids,” DuFresne said. “We want to do whatever we can to make it better.”

During their first trip to the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis, the “Give A Hand, Receive A Smile” group helped prepare and serve meals to children and their families.

“You’re volunteering your time to help families that really don’t get to experience anything that we get to,” Kurtz said.

The group is also in the process of organizing three more visits to the Ronald McDonald House, including a game night forthe children. 

“The parents can have a night out and relax a little bit while we play with kids,” Kurtz said. “The children love it because they don’t see kids, except kids that are sick.”

On May 23, “Give a Hand, Receive a Smile” will be holding a hair donation drive at WHS.

“We wanted to get the whole community involved,” DuFresne said.

Even though Kurtz and DuFresne are graduating this year, “Give A Hand, Receive A Smile” will live on. Kurtz said she hopes to expand the group to other schools and to Woodbury as a whole.

“It started at Woodbury High School,” she said, “but we don’t want it to stop here.”

“Give a Hand, Receive a Smile” will be holding a public hair donation event May 23 from 4-6:30 p.m. at Woodbury High School. A minimum hair donation is six inches.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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