By Cheryl Conway
Hop on the Hogwarts Express for Harry Potter Story Time with this local teen’s passion for reading and raising money to help children battling cancer.
Fifteen-year-old Jenna Alessandrini of Flanders, a freshman at Mt. Olive High School, is offering a story time on Tuesdays and Fridays from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. through March 19. The first hour was held this past Tuesday, Feb. 16, but for those who still want to sign up, Alessandrini will offer a make-up session so listeners can catch up.
All proceeds for Alessandrini’s Harry Potter Story Time will go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Her efforts not only entertain her younger peers but provide some financial support in children’s cancer research.
“I love reading,” says Alessandrini. “I like that you can read a book and enter another world, one of magic like Harry Potter, or one of mystery. I also love that you can relax and focus on something outside of your own life and escape into another one.
“Harry Potter was, and still is, one of my favorite series,” she continues. “It’s also something I believe every child should read. It deals with real world issues, like grief and friendship, while still captivating the reader and bringing them on a magical adventure. I just immediately thought that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone would be the perfect book for this.”
Alessandrini came up with her reading fundraiser idea in January along with her mom’s brainstorming, she says.
“It was both mine and my mom Stefani Alessandrini’s idea to read to children for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” says Alessandrini.
“I was accepted into the New Jersey chapter of the St. Jude Leadership Society, a group of about 30 high schoolers, and we are meeting on Zoom to discuss leadership skills and qualities and to learn how to be more active in our community,” she explains. “Part of that is raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. After our first session on Saturday, January 30, my mom and I were brainstorming about what I could do as one of my fundraisers.
“My mom is my mentor, whom we had to choose to guide us through our journey with St. Jude Leadership Society (SJLS),” she explains. “We were thinking of ways I could help people while raising money for St. Jude at the same time. My mom and I wanted to consider what I’m passionate about, knowing that it would make the fundraiser even more successful if I actually enjoyed doing it. I’ve always loved to read, and I’m also a big fan of the Harry Potter series, so we eventually landed on the idea of reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, one of my favorite childhood books, to children virtually.”
Virtual Sessions Planned
Alessandrini is holding her reading hour sessions on Google Meet.
The Harry Potter Story Time is aimed for mainly children aged 5-11, or those in elementary school, she says.
Listeners do not have to live in Mt. Olive to participate.
“It isn’t just closed to Mt. Olive kids since it’s going to be done through Google Meet,” she says. “I have listeners from New Jersey as well as a couple from Ohio. Anyone who wants to sign up is welcome!
“I have five listeners signed up right now, but I can accommodate as many as want to sign up,” she adds. “The more, the merrier!”
Reading Is Just One Chapter of Fundraising Plans
“As part of my involvement in the New Jersey chapter of St. Jude Leadership Society, I’m raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” she explains. “I needed ideas for different fundraisers in which I could do this. My goal is to raise $5,000 for the children at St. Jude by June, the cutoff date. The Harry Potter Story Time is just one of the ways I’m going to do this.”
Alessandrini is off to a good start in her fundraising goals.
“Currently, I have raised $1,740 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital from my various fundraisers,” she says. “The Harry Potter Story Time has raised $375.”
Her deadline to raise money through the SJLS is June 15, she adds.
“From my Harry Potter Story Time, I hope to raise $500,” says Alessandrini. “We’ve been getting donations from people who don’t have children or know anyone of the right age for the story time that are still donating, which I really appreciate too.”
Reading is just one of several fundraisers she has done to support St. Jude’s thus far.
“I have done quite a few other fundraisers for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a part of my involvement in SJLS so far this month,” she says. “I simply reached out to people I know to ask for donations and I posted my fundraising page on social media as well.
She just did a fundraiser for Valentine’s Day in which for every $5 donation she received by February 14, she created virtual cards for St. Jude patients to wish them a happy Valentine’s Day.”
Why St. Jude’s
Although there are so many causes and charities out there, Alessandrini has a strong desire to support St Jude.
“St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is such a deserving cause,” says Alessandrini. “I’m more than happy to fundraise for them, and I love that I’m able to do this fundraiser for them. It was just a given after coming up with the idea that I would donate the proceeds to St. Jude.”
This young philanthropist has done her research and backs up her reasoning for supporting this cause.
“St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is one of my favorite organizations,” explains Alessandrini. “The children they help are so deserving of any donations they can get. St. Jude patients and their families never get a bill from St. Jude. They believe that a family should only have to worry about getting their children healthy, not about paying for their treatments, travel, housing or food.
“St. Jude also works to research and understand childhood cancer,” she continues. “Since they first opened over 50 years ago, they have contributed to the increasing childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80%.
“I love St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and I’m so happy to be able to fundraise for them,” she says.