Instead of lounging in front of the TV or computer when she gets home from camp, these days 9-year-old Olivia McGuire picks up her paintbrush. Her fingers are chapped from so much painting, but she still spends her evenings carefully stroking bright colors onto white canvases.
The fourth-grader at Pleasant Union Elementary isn’t painting pictures just to hang in her room or give to her friends. In five days, she raised more than $1,100 for two causes close to her heart.
Olivia came up with the idea to sell her paintings for charity a few weeks ago, and her mom posted some photos on Facebook to spread the word. Within minutes, friends, family and people they hadn’t even met were sending emails requesting that Olivia paint custom pictures for them.
“She’s always been gracious and giving and a good kid, but this is really her first taste of what it means to help others,” McGuire said. “It has really been amazing to see what one child can accomplish in five days.”
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Olivia had recently heard about the shooting in Aurora, Colo., and decided she wanted to give half of the proceeds to a charity that would help the children affected by the shooting.
“I just felt really bad for the kids whose parents were hurt because now they don’t have what I have,” Olivia said.
She will donate the rest of the money to 1in9, a local charity that helps women fighting breast cancer in the Triangle. Olivia had watched family friend and 1in9 founder Stephanie Beguelin fight breast cancer and had also volunteered with 1in9. She was especially touched by the group’s work when she learned that 1in9 had helped 20 local women pay for food, transportation and their utilities last year while they underwent treatment. This year, the group aims to help 80 women.
“It means a lot that I can help other people by doing something that I love to do,” Olivia said. “It’s been amazing. The only thing that could make it even better would be if Justin Bieber would buy one of my paintings.”
People can request paintings in their favorite colors, and Olivia has painted a New York Giant-themed canvas along with artwork in ECU colors.
Each day, she goes to her mailbox to collect the donations and read the messages people write to her. The mother-and-daughter team have shipped her paintings all across the country, including to Florida, California and Illinois.
“Everyone who has supported her has been so remarkable and kind and encouraging,” McGuire said.
Olivia also created a special picture for 1in9, using pink and gold paint. The pink represents breast cancer while the women fighting the disease are the gold stars she painted on the canvas.
“I am just amazed that this young lady had decided to spend her free time to help others. This wouldn’t even cross the mind of most 9-year-olds,” Beguelin said.