By ANDREA VanVALKENBURG
---- — PLATTSBURGH — While listening to the radio one day, Billie Jo Branham was inspired to help children in need.
That’s when the Plattsburgh woman first heard about the Fletcher Allen Health Care and WOKO Big Change Roundup fundraiser to benefit Vermont Children’s Hospital.
She began wondering how she could help.
“I don’t have any kids, and I don’t have any connection to the hospital, but I wanted to do something to help,” she said.
So for the last four years, Branham, 25, has collected change from family and friends and donated it to the cause.
Last year, she was pleased with the $400 she collected but knew she could do more.
“This year, I wanted to actually outdo myself and do something really big,” she said. “I wanted to hold an event, and I didn’t know how it would go.”
‘A LOT OF HELP’
With the help of Tracy Ebersol of Peru and American Legion Post 20, Branham recently hosted a dart tournament and spaghetti dinner, raising more than $4,000 for the worthy cause.
“And all of the proceeds went to the Big Change Roundup,” she said.
She credits Ebersol, the American Legion and the many area businesses and supporters for making the event such a success.
“I had a lot of help, and I want to do it every year I can. The people who helped me out this year are already wondering when we’re going to start planning the next one.”
She is scheduled to turn in the money next month during a Big Change Roundup event at the Plattsburgh Wal-Mart and is now considering hosting a bake sale to bolster her final fundraising numbers.
“I want to give it a little push before I turn it in.”
Branham said her parents instilled in her a giving spirit at an early age, with their annual donations and dedication to Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a summer camp for children affected by cancer.
“But I wanted to branch out and do something myself, and then I heard about the Big Change Roundup,” she said.
Vermont Children’s Hospital serves kids from across Vermont and New York state.
And despite not knowing exactly who will benefit from her effort, Branham said, “I know it’s helping someone who needs it, and that’s heartwarming enough.”
HOW TO HELP