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'If I give back I'll get what I need'

Teen's birthday party raises funds for orphanage

Taylor Graff and her mom, Heidi, at St. Joseph’s Church, where Taylor recently held a fundraising birthday party to benefit an orphanage in Haiti. Amanda Collins. (click for larger version)
January 02, 2012
CHARLTON — As 2011 came to a close a group of teens were celebrating Taylor Graff's 18th birthday in the basement of St. Joseph's Church, eating pizza and cake, dancing into the New Year.

Almost 2,000 miles away, in a dormitory on the southwestern coast of Haiti, a young orphan closed out the year with a bowl of porridge before going to bed. He didn't have to turn off the lights — there's rarely any electricity available at the Pwoje Espwa orphanage (Creole for "Project Hope").

While their lives couldn't be more different, the teens of Charlton and the orphans of poverty-stricken Haiti are now connected by Graff's giving spirit. In lieu of gifts, the Shepherd Hill senior asked those who attended her New Year's Eve birthday party to donate to Free the Kids, the American fundraising leg of Project Hope.

"I'm doing what I think is right," Graff said of her birthday party fundraiser, which took the shape of a "dance marathon" where attendees formed teams and danced relay-style for six hours. "I didn't want presents and this cause was close to my heart."

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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