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Student fundraiser makes big impact at Inova Loudoun

Lexi Graham (left) and Geena May (right) with Beamer the dog, at the ribbon cutting for the new play space at Inova Loudoun Hospital’s pediatric emergency room waiting area. Graham and May led the effort to raise $30,000 in one year to fund the new play space. Times-Mirror/Karen Graham
When students at James Madison High School in Vienna began making plans for a community outreach project for the 2013-14 school year, they knew they wanted to help a local hospital.

The students, members of the National Science Honor Society, were led by high school seniors Lexi Graham and Geena May. They began contacting local hospitals to find out how they could help.

Officials at Inova Loudoun were one of the first to respond, explaining they were in need of a play area in the pediatric emergency waiting room at their Lansdowne facility.

The students immediately went into action and began raising the $30,000 needed to fund the new play area.

“They started with setting up dining events at area restaurants,” explained their teacher and faculty sponsor Thao Hollingsworth. “They came up with many other fundraisers, including a 5K fun run which raised over $5,000. They also organized catered dinners, a talent show and sent out letters seeking donations,” Hollingsworth said.

Initially, Hollingsworth thought it would take three to five years to raise the money.

Pamela Maroulis, executive director for the Inova Loudoun Foundation, said at first, board members were skeptical that the project could be completed in a year.
“It was an amazing and creative effort by the students. Their catered dinner fundraisers were most impressive,” Maroulis said.

Hollingsworth agreed. “I could not find any finer young women to take charge of a project. They made my job very easy and showed their leadership. They have left a legacy to our school so the younger generation can see a more meaningful community service,” Hollingsworth said.

Graham said the experience was “so positive and motivating. It showed that high schoolers are proving we can do amazing things. We have 100 members in our group and everyone helped. It means so much that we did it in a year.”

The play space’s design is made of antibacterial materials and features a replica of the ambulance that takes patients from Loudoun to Fairfax Hospital. It also features Beamer the Dog, from the “Beamer book series” by Cindy Chambers, as well as illustrations from the “Beamer visits the Emergency Room” books.

“It is incredibly wonderful,” said Chambers. “It is a friendly environment showing the people here are going to care for them and help them feel better.”

Pat Walters, CEO of Inova Loudoun, thanked the students for their hard work and said, “the project shows when people get an idea and put that focus into making a difference they can make miracles happen. You can see the change in the pediatric waiting area and it is a fabulous result. I see families enjoying this very special area every day.”

“The patients see the warm and friendly space and it makes it not so scary to come to the hospital. This will last with a child for the rest of their lives,” said Gina Harrison, nurse manager in the pediatric emergency department.


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