Beautifying Belmont-Cragin Elementary School

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Sabrina Morris learned early on what it felt like to give back. This year, for her birthday, she wanted to spread that feeling around. The Glencoe 12-year-old and her family have been very involved in fundraising, in particular for the cause of curing and controlling cystic fibrosis, an ailment that Sabrina and her 14-year-old sister, Sophie, share. Each August, their father, David, runs an event where the sisters speak about how cystic fibrosis has affected their lives and how the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is moving forward to find a cure. The entire Morris family, including mother, Jamie, and sister, Amelia, have seen the effects of philanthropy and do what they can to make their marks.

This year, instead of having a party for her bat mitzvah, Sabrina and her family launched a full day of projects to give back to one Chicago Public School. On Oct. 5, a crew of about 100 Glencoe kids and 20 teenagers and adults went to work under the leadership of Chicago Cares to work on various projects to help beautify Belmont-Cragin Elementary School. Due to CPS cutbacks, the group of K-8 kids moved to co-locate with Northwest middle school, into their current shared building, which was lacking certain things.

“The idea was Sabrina’s,” said her mother. “She wanted to take the mitzvah, a worthy deed, and do something meaningful alongside her friends.”

The result was a thoughtful, hands-on group project that allowed the children involved to see what their hard work could accomplish. The focus of the work was based upon the needs of the school, which included building benches, cubbies and planters as well as a plywood mural reading “Welcome to Belmont-Cragin.” Mosaics and landscaping were also among the top things on the school’s wish list.

“We hope the kids walked away proud of their efforts and that maybe they make a commitment to continue the cycle,” Jamie said.

Sabrina has always wanted to initiate ways to give back to the doctors and organizations that help her and her sister. In trying to stay busy during sick time spent at home, she started her own business making bracelets for kids like her who were going in for hospitalization. The jewelry started selling by word-of-mouth before she started a website (www.breathejewelry.org) to sell the bracelets. All proceeds go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation or The Cystic Fibrosis Institute.

“Cystic Fibrosis is what has made [my kids] the strong, independent people they are today,” said Jamie. “For Sabrina, [Breathe Jewelry] is a way to embrace her disease and be a part of raising awareness.”