Area teenager keeps raising money for community, with over $63K donated so far
Cecilia Fink is a testament to the fact that compassion has no age limit. Couple that compassion with a passion to help others and you have a young woman who has raised over $63,000 for local charities by the time she was a senior in high school.
Her introduction to fundraising began the year she was in fifth grade, 2014.
That was the year that Cecilia’s father, Jason, had a medical emergency, which could have been fatal, but fortunately was not.
“It was very rare and very fatal,” she said. “And it was a very scary thing for a fifth-grader to have to go through.”
She shared that, thankfully, her father was able to come home from the hospital before Christmas and they were able to celebrate together.
Then in the spring, when her birthday was coming, Cecilia, who had just gotten her ears pierced, decided that she wanted the supplies to make her own jewelry.
Her birthday wish was fulfilled. She got the things she needed to make her own earrings. It was at that time that her father told her about a young boy who was going to need a heart transplant.
“Something inside of me was just like, what if I sold my earrings and whatever I raised I could donate to him at the end of the year. And that’s what started “Be You Boldly,” she said.
Cecilia decided to name the vehicle for her charitable donations, “Be You Boldly,” after hearing the motto of a group that her mom, Pam, belonged to, which was “Be You Bravely.”
“That just kind of rung with me as a fifth-grader. The whole idea of being who you are, being fearless, doing your best with what you’re given,” she said.
“So, I kind of played around with that a little bit and got boldly,” she added.
Her first year, just selling her earrings at craft shows and to friends and family members, Cecilia raised $1,120.
She continued selling her earrings to raise funds for local charities until she expanded her efforts during her freshman year in high school. That was the year she began the Pie Day 5K on Thanksgiving morning.
“For a few years I was still just selling jewelry and choosing different charities every year that inspired me. Then in my freshman year I decided to expand my efforts and start the Pie Day 5K,” she said.
Because of her efforts the first year of race saw a huge jump in donations for the charities she supported.
“I was very happy that I decided to make the jump into doing the Pie Day 5K,” she said.
Cecilia still has her earring sales which she donates to the charity of her choice, which also gets half of the profits from the race. For the past two years, K’s for Cancer has been chosen for the donation. The other half has gone to the Livestrong program at the River Valley YMCA.
Cecilia chooses the charities to receive the money she raises randomly she said, like when her father mentioned the little boy in need of a heart transplant.
“I heard about Ellie’s Heart Foundation which was who I had my second year. They were at events that I would go to and I got to meet her and I got to meet her family. I leaned about their story and it inspired me…I just kind of hear it through the grapevine,” she said.
Cecilia, who is third in her class at Williamsport Area High School, plans to attend either the University of Pittsburgh or Carnegie Mellon University and major in psychology with an emphasis in youth counseling.
When asked why she chose this for her future plans, she replied, “I find joy in helping people. I find it find it very rewarding in seeing someone’s life be made a little bit easier and that I’ve been able to do that for them.”
“I love working with kids. A lot of the work that I’ve done has been to benefit kids. I think they all have their own battles but to be so young and be able to stay so positive through all they’ve been through, really inspired me,” she added.
One man who got to know Cecilia well through the work she has done with the charity he established in memory of his son is Rex Hilton, president of K’s for Cancer.
“I know her dad quite well and I was explaining to him one day about K’s for Cancer and what we do,” said Rex Hilton, president. “He had mentioned us to Cecilia and it very much was in line with what she was doing, so we had an introduction and she made us one of the beneficiaries of her Pie Day Run.”
K’s for Cancer was established in 2013 in memory of Hilton’s son, Justin, who passed away from cancer. They provide financial support to cancer treatment patients in Lycoming County. Since it is an all-volunteer organization, all money the charity raises is given back to the patients going through cancer treatment and their families.
That first year, 2019, the run raised $10,000 for the charity, and then in 2020, over $16,000 was raised.
Through working with Cecilia, Hilton said that they got to know her better and the charity invited her to be on their board.
“Through her tireless effort, she did it all,” Hilton said. “She is mature, well beyond her age. You can tell she’s compassionate, which is what drives her — her desire to help others.”
“Her ability to work with us a team player. She can lead, as evidenced by what she does with the Pie Run. She can be a support player. She just does it with a tremendous attitude. She kind of lifts everybody up,” he added.
Another group which has benefited from Be You Boldly is the Livestrong program at the Y.
Rachel Bryant, wellness director at the YMCA, said that Cecilia’s family has been involved with the Y for many years with her dad volunteering there since Cecilia was a young child.
“It’s no surprise coming from her family background that she would have the passion to help local organizations and the people in the community.
Livestrong is a collaboration with the YMCA of the USA and the Livestrong Foundation. The foundation provides resources of all kinds to cancer survivors. Their work with the Y aids cancer survivors to regain health, to build relationships, have accountability, motivation in their communities. The only requirements to participate is medical clearance and being 18 years of age. Participants may have had cancer years ago or they may currently be in treatment, Bryant said.
The group meets twice a week and also receive a 12-week family membership at the Y, all free of charge.
“Basically staff is taking them from ground zero, if that individual has just never regained their strength or they need that social support. They’re introducing them to different things they can do at the Y to increase their health and the time that they have with others and building relationships,” she said.
Although she doesn’t work directly with the program, Bryant said that a few year ago they invited Cecilia to take part in the graduate program that culminates the end of the 12-weeks of the Livestrong program. Those who had gone through the program, along with their families, got to meet Cecilia.
“To let them know that they get to do the program at no cost to them because here is a young lady who has raised funds on your behalf so you could take part in this wonderful program. That was pretty special,” Bryant said.
In her work with Cecilia, Bryant has observed that she is “wise beyond her years.”
“I sometimes forget that I’m dealing with a high school student. Especially in some of her earlier years. A caring heart. It’s not like she just raising money because she thinks it’s the right thing to do She truly believes in helping the individuals who are going to benefit from the funds that are raised,” Bryant added.
Hilton summarized his impression of Cecilia. “It just makes you realize this world’s in pretty good hands with this next generation coming along. I honestly could not say enough good things about her.”