Bev Cappadonia wakes up every morning with the feeling of dread in her chest, fearing this will be the day she hears that her 6-year-old granddaughter, Annalise Pelton, will have lost a battle with cancer that has taken up half of her young life.
Cappadonia, who lives in West Raleigh, choked up as she talked about visiting her granddaughter in a children's cancer hospital in Rochester, N.Y. She pulled her sunglasses over her eyes to hide tears.
"You don't want to see anyone with cancer," she said. "But it's really hard to see a hospital full of little kids."
That's why it meant so much to her to see 30 students take to the streets in two North Raleigh neighborhoods on a chilly Sunday afternoon with Caroling for a Cause, a fundraiser for cancer research that two teens started in Cary.
"Look at those kids," she said with a teary-eyed smile. "They are great."
Last year, about 100 schoolchildren and college students in Cary and 25 schoolchildren in North Raleigh raised more than $5,000 to fight cancer. The proceeds go to the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill.
Caroling for a Cause is an offshoot of another nonprofit that Jennifer and Michael Hodshon started eight years ago, when they were in a southern New Jersey elementary school. Jennifer was a fourth-grader and Michael was entering kindergarten when their mom, Debbie Hodshon, told Jennifer she needed to do something more than set up a lemonade stand to earn a little pocket change.
"My mother said, 'You have no needs, only wants,'" Jennifer Hodshon said. "'You need to find people who have needs and give to them.'"
Jennifer and Michael came up with BookMark My Word, bmmw.yolasite.com, a nonprofit that sells $1 bookmarks created by children and donates the proceeds to cancer research. It has raised more than $30,000.
The family moved to Cary in 2005 and carried on with the nonprofit and added Caroling for a Cause. Then their entrepreneurial savvy created another phenomenon. The North Raleigh group started two years later, with siblings, Michael, 16, Danny, 15, Paul, 12, and Greg Liebman, 7, emulated what the Hodshons had started. The Liebman boys' mom, Cindy Liebman, is a close friend of Debbie Hodshon.
"We don't have to just throw money into a bowl," said Danny Liebman as he led four friends on an afternoon of caroling. "We like to go around spreading Christmas cheer."
After reaching out to school, youth and church organizations, the Hodshons and Liebmans have an army of schoolchildren and college students caroling in suburban neighborhoods. They sing a Christmas standard or two, then hand the homeowners a bookmark with a candy cane that includes contact information to make a donation.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-829-4861