Ten-Year-Old Danvers Boy Starts Fund For Tornado Victims
Fourth grade cub scout Robert Wolniewicz inspired a fund program at Highlands Middle School.
When devastating tornadoes striking Indiana and Kentucky were reported earlier this month, ten-year-old Danvers resident Robert Wolniewicz's cub scout project took an unexpected turn.
The news media picked up the story of a 15-month-old girl discovered in a field, and she was alive. With her parents and siblings among the 39 killed in the twister, Angel Babcock was the only surviving member of her immediate family.
The young and impressionable fourth grader's thought's initially ran to all of the things the little girl had lost. When parents Catherine and David Wolniewicz, who are lifelong Danvers residents, explained the full spectrum of the loss, Robert was deeply affected.
Just two short years ago the Wolniewicz family was temporarily displaced from their home due to an oil spill in their basement. Although they are all back under one roof again, the family has been reeling with repercussions ranging from monetary and property losses, to unexplained illnesses ever since. In a sense, Robert felt connected to the baby girl, Angel.
He decided to set up a website geared towards helping Baby Angel, called Helping Angel, and contacted his school principal to try to get the word out. His hope was to inspire the student body at the Highlands School to contribute $1 each to help the tornado victim.
Mom Catherine explained, "He realized that this little girl lost her home and everything. He was sad she lost all her toys, he's only ten, he didn't really get the full scope; but he could relate to her losing a home."
When the news of the baby girl's passing was announced just two days later, Robert's parents struggled with how to deliver such devastating to their son, who had become so invested in helping her.
"He has such a sensitive, caring heart. It was very hard to tell him, it was like telling him one of his friends had died," recalled Catherine. "But we let him know that there are still others he can help in her name, and we were willing to help him with it."
Robert decided to continue with his charity because, he said, "I want to help children who have survived natural disasters, like Angel did, and need help."
"Sometimes when the media goes away, people forget, but it's the months after that the people really need the help, so I'm excited for him that he's continuing with the spirit of wanting to help," said his proud mom.
Like most kids his age, Robert is a high spirited, yet sometimes shy child, according to his mother. "He's very caring. He really thinks about other people and how they feel," she said. "...he's a free spirit. I don't really worry about Robert, he goes out and does his own thing."
Robert's Cub Scout pack is at the point where they are preparing to be full boy scouts and have to take on more responsibility. With this project, they have to go above and beyond, and it has to be approved by council. Catherine remarked, "When I think of all that he is doing-it's more like an eagle project, and he's only ten!"
Wolniewicz credits the scouts with giving all of her boys, older brother Ben, as well as Robert's twin brother Jack, important life skills that in time will help them make the world a better place.
"This [project] has started to take on a life of its own," she marveled. "Its not just him anymore, he's got friends at school involved, which is really great-he's the vehicle for others to want to help. And who knows, maybe this will cause others to open their eyes and want to lend a hand."
Aside from the website which will soon have a PayPal service attached, Robert has garnered approval from Superintendant of Danvers Schools Dr. Lisa Dana to move forward with his charity within the school, and has been researching how to become licensed through the state.
His next task is to find adults who are not related to him, who are willing to help the cause. He also hopes to establish contact at some point with baby Angel's grandfather to offer condolences, and to let him know about his grand daughter's charity.
"I think it is a good idea, [to contact him] because he will know someone cares," Robert said.