Stamford native James Lacerenza has been helping children with muscular dystropy since he himself was a child. When he was 11, he told his mother he wanted to volunteer at the Jerry’s Kids Telethon phone bank in Stamford. She wasn’t worried it might be too much for her son, even though he had cerebral palsy and had lost the use of his legs early in life.
“I wanted to do something for all those kids with muscular dystrophy who didn’t get to be kids,” says Lacerenza, who is now 24.
James eventually became interested in the summer camp for children with MD in Spring Valley, N.Y., and the Shamrock fund-raising program, which gives scholarships to the camp.
As a senior at Stamford High in 2005, James used the daily announcements at school to sell paper Shamrocks to his classmates. That first year, he sold enough Shamrock stick-ons to send four kids to camp, all expenses paid.
In 2008, he raised more than $30,000 from the sale of Shamrocks, private donations and corporate support. Splash Car Wash came on board and helped boost the total to $16,000 in ’09 and $17,000 last year, even in the economic downturn.
The five-year total raised by James is $86,036, giving 110 children with MD the chance to attend summer camp for free.
After graduating from UConn last year James launched a new fundraising effort. If it succeeds, it will bring in enough money to cover the full operating cost of the camp for one year.
Last year his organization entered the Pepsi Refresh Project, where people register online with Pepsi and vote for the charity of their choice. The top 10 vote-getters receive $50,000. James’ group came in sixteenth. James is now energizing his friends in the hope of winning prize money in this year’s Pepsi Refresh Project.
Last February, James was relaxing on his couch when the phone rang and heard the voice of none other than Jerry Lewis. The legend was calling to personally thank James for the amazing effort he had put in for Jerry’s Kids.
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