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West Essex Student Creates Fundraiser for Wounded Soldier

Junior creates 'Hearts for Derek' to raise money for PFC Derek McConnell, a graduate of WEHS who sustained life-altering injuries while serving in Afghanistan.

Patch Whiz Kid/Team/Club of the Week: Marissa London, high school junior

Whiz Kid's School/Church/Community Center: West Essex Regional High School, North Caldwell

Whiz Kid's Accomplishment: After learning of the life-altering injuries sustained , Marissa London, a junior at , began "Hearts for Derek", a fundraiser to benefit the young soldier who was wounded over the summer while serving in Afghanistan. London kicked off the fundraiser at the on Sunday, Oct. 16, during a pasta dinner held to benefit the West Essex grad. London also received permission from the high school to collect donations before and after school. 

Whiz Kid's Key to Awesomeness: After hearing about situation from her mother last July, London, a longtime friend of McConnell’s younger sister, Kellina, wanted to do something for the family that she has known for more than ten years. London began thinking of ways to help.

“I was lying awake one night thinking about a West Essex High School did last year, and it slowly morphed into my idea, “Hearts For Derek,” said London. “I ran to tell my mother about my brainstorm, and she’s been helping me sort out my ideas ever since.”

Several other people have helped London get her project rolling, including owner Ned Gladstein, Sgt. Tom Mautone, Barbara Longo, Juliann Hoebee, and North Caldwell Scout Master Paul Holland.  London even got sponsors for her event, including the West Caldwell ShopRite, B&L Printing, and MyBannerStand, to create the marketing materials she needed.

Hoping to raise at least $6,000, London is asking for $3 donations. For each donation, individuals sign a cutout of a Purple Heart medal and receive a few candy kisses. McConnell was awarded the Purple Heart last summer.

“This will be an ongoing fundraiser, so I may be accepting donations for about a year, possibly more,” said London. “My goal is to continue accepting donations until Derek is literally up and running.”

Aside from her fundraising campaign, London, an honors student, is a singer and violinist. London performs with ’s , and appeared with them at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center last year. HaZamir will be singing at Lincoln Center again next March.

In addition, London, who has been playing the violin since the third grade, will perform with the Metropolitan Orchestra of New Jersey (MONJ), and is the Assistant Concert Master of the . The MONJ will hold its fall concert on Dec. 4 at the Hartshorn School in Short Hills, performing compositions by Rossini, Mozart and Beethoven.

Siobhan October 18, 2011 at 02:46 AM
I love this kid. She has been a part of our family for ten years, and I love her. She is amazing.

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