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They Gather To Do Good

Social Change group raises money for charities.

Members of Social Change (and a couple husbands) pose at the June gathering to raise money for Butterfly Wings, a camp for children grieving the loss of a loved one.

Members of Social Change (and a couple husbands) pose at the June gathering to raise money for Butterfly Wings, a camp for children grieving the loss of a loved one. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

— When ordinary people work together for a good cause, extraordinary things can happen. And that’s been the case so far with a local group called Social Change.

It’s been around for 16 months and consists of residents from Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Oakton and Fairfax. It’s a social get-together but, instead of discussing books or playing cards, the women participating gather monthly to learn about — and raise funds for — various charities and endeavors.

“At a meeting last year, we raised enough money for 200 pair of socks for Gypsies in Romania,” said the group’s founder, Julie Sussman of Centreville’s Rocky Run community. “This March, we raised funds for brain-cancer research.”

In May, the group raised more than $1,000 for a local Starbuck’s employee who’d fallen 40 feet and was severely injured. He needed the money for his physical rehabilitation, but it meant something else to him, as well. Said Sussman: “It touched him that strangers in the community cared about him.”

“The person who’ll receive the funds for her charity tells the others about it and why it’s worthwhile, and then the members each contribute $5, or more if they desire, toward the cause.”

— Julie Sussman

Basically, she said, “I’d done bake sales as fund-raisers, but they were getting old, and Social Change is a painless way to do it. I also thought people needed a way to raise money for something near and dear to their hearts — whatever moves them.”

Social Change isn’t a nonprofit; instead, it’s a charity club. Members tell Sussman who or what they wish to raise money for, and then they or another member will host a gathering — often in the evening, with food. The person who’ll receive the funds for her charity tells the others about it and why it’s worthwhile, and then the members each contribute $5, or more if they desire, toward the cause.

“It’s neat because it’s just a couple hours and it’s fun,” said Sussman. “You meet new people, you can exchange business cards and you learn about new things.” Participants don’t have to attend every meeting and, to date, about 60 adults and 20 students — mainly from Chantilly and Oakton high schools — are part of the group.

In July, they heard about and donated to Trevor’s Treasures ( www.trevorstreasures.org). It’s a nonprofit started by a 10-year-old boy still battling neuroblastoma, himself, but devoted to raising money to buy toys and personally deliver them to hospitalized children fighting cancer all over the country.

And in June, Centreville’s Sally Canatsey hosted a Social Change event for her married daughter, Katie Masey, a 2001 Centreville High grad. Masey’s a licensed, professional counselor with the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board in Lexington, Va., and works with families and children in a rural community with far less resources than Northern Virginia.

During the event, she spoke about and raised funds for Butterfly Wings, a camp for children grieving the loss of a loved one. The one-day camp in a nature preserve served children ages 7-12, this year, but Masey would also like to include teens. It’s free to the families, many of whom are poor.

“It’s all volunteer-run,” she said. “Professionals such as counselors and musicians donated their time. We had a nature walk and the children did art therapy. They each created a ‘soul collage’ with photos of their loved one and also made a collage with magazine pictures.”

They also did other craft projects, while making new friends and meeting other children in similar circumstances. A pediatrician was there, too. He explained to them the medical conditions of their loved ones who’d died because many of the children had unanswered questions about what had happened to them.

“We partnered with Hospice to put on the camp, and a representative talked with parents about the grief process,” said Masey. “The parents said it was very beneficial.”

Besides adding teens to the camp next year, she also wants to raise $5,000 to offer more activities there, plus transportation to parents who live far away from the Lexington-area camp. Many parents who would have liked their children to attend it this year, said Masey, either had no way to get them there and back or simply couldn’t afford the gas.

She still has a ways to go but, by the end of the evening’s Social Event in Centreville, she’d raised $700 for the camp. For more information about Butterfly Wings, go to http://rockbridgeareahospice.org/?p=874.