Columbia middle-schoolers work for a cause

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Columbia - posted Mon., Mar. 14, 2011
The 'Friendz Making a Difference' sell their goods at a farmers' market. Courtesy photos. - Contributed Photo

In August of 2009, four sixth-grade friends from Columbia’s Horace Porter Elementary School were inspired by the film “Slumdog Millionaire” to try to make a difference.

“They were shocked by some of the scenes in the film depicting the slums of Mumbai,” said Deidre McGlynn. McGlynn, the mother of one of the girls, told her daughter that there were plenty of ways to help people closer to home. “So they decided they were going to form a group,” said McGlynn.

The four girls - Jessica Rand, Sarah Schatz, Katrina McGlynn and Carly Weston - call themselves Friendz Making a Difference. Last year, they dedicated their efforts to Our Companions Domestic Animals Sanctuary. “They make beautiful jewelry,” said Deidre McGlynn.

In addition to selling their crafts at local events, the girls participated in a murder mystery dinner and organized a variety show featuring local talent. Altogether, they were able to donate $4,300 to Our Companions. They were rewarded for their efforts with an opportunity to appear on WFSB’s “Better Connecticut” program.

This year, the group has chosen the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center as its charity. A new wing planned for the center “will allow the parents of the children being treated to stay with them at the hospital,” said McGlynn.

The biggest event the Friendz have planned for this charity is an expanded version of their variety show. “They have secured Miss Connecticut, Brittany Decker, to perform and help them host,” said McGlynn. “They have talent coming from all over the state to perform in the show. There will be dancers from St. Joseph’s College, they have a Ladies’ Quartet from Hebron, Irish step-dancing, acoustic guitarists, singers, Broadway acts and more singers.”

With a total of about 25 acts, the show will include professional performers as well as amateur acts. “We have acts from Amston, Mystic, Hebron, Glastonbury, Lebanon, Windham, Columbia, Oxford, Colchester, Hampton and more,” said McGlynn. “It’s just going to be a robust night of talents. The room holds 850, and we are doing our darnedest to fill it the best we can.”

As seventh-graders this year, the girls have had to fit their fund-raising in amidst the demands of middle school. “No small feat,” said McGlynn. “Seventh grade is a big adjustment. They have dance lessons, horseback riding lessons. Sometimes we meet twice a week to work on the charity. But their hearts are in it.”

McGlynn feels the girls have gained a lot so far from their experience. “They got to appear on television. They’ve had some exciting things happen to them with this charity vehicle,” she said. “They’ve talked to businesses, bankers. I drive them somewhere and wait in the car. They go in there and do all the talking. It’s amazing.”

The second annual Friendz Making a Difference Variety Show will be held at 7 p.m. on March 25, at the Windham High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 at the door, $8 for seniors, and children 5 and under are admitted free of charge. The group is receiving assistance from the Columbia Leos Club for the event.

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