Sticking Together

After her grandmother's breast cancer returned, Gina Upholzer turned her creative hobby into a fundraising effort.

Nine-year-old Gina Upholzer always wants to give back. When her family considered adopting a pet, Gina made sure they saved one from a shelter. She even knit a scarf for last year's silent auction to support the J.D. Breast Cancer Foundation.

"She's always had a philanthropic spirit," says her mother, Alesa.

So when the family learned that Gina's grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time, she wanted to help. Her father, Joe, decided to participate in the 60-mile Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure on July 29 and needed to raise $2,300.

Gina approached her parents with the idea of selling duct tape purses — a craft she and her friends had learned on the website of the Avon company that makes Duck brand duct tape — as a way to support her father's fundraising effort. Her parents paid for the supplies, and Alesa put the items on eBay for $5 each (plus shipping). She also started selling them at school.

"I thought it was wonderful that Gina took the initiative and wanted to help," Alesa says.

At first, Gina had no idea how many she would sell. "I thought I was just going to sell two or 10," she says. "I think it's really cool that it's been growing so big."

Big indeed. She's sold 703 purses at press time, with 460 in the first month. Shortly after Gina began selling the purses, Fox 8 aired a segment on her cause. She came home from school the day after to find out she had received 50 more orders.

"People are always thinking about how to make the million dollars for themselves, but to think about how to raise money for other people at a young age is what impressed me," Joe says of his daughter.

Orders started pouring in from across the United States. Demand was getting so high that Gina and her friends held a purse-making party in March. They made 35 purses only to realize there were 35 more Internet orders once they were finished.

The Duck brand also initially donated 168 rolls and 178 sheets of duct tape, which equates to about 600 purses. Even with all that tape, the company sent another shipment at the end of March.

Gina, who has raised more than $3,000 to sponsor her father, will continue to sell her purses until the walk next month. "It makes everybody think about what they can do to give back," Joe says.

More Info Search for "duct tape purse/pencil case" on eBay.

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