By Kylee Harris
ARDSLEY, NY When a 12-year-old gets to see a Broadway show, he or she might want to bring some friends along. But Lexie Barber, an Ardsley Middle School student, took eight students she had never met before to see Wicked recently, treating them to lunch before the show and even arranging a special Meet & Greet session with the cast. It was so much fun, says Lexie. The kids who came along asked the cast so many questions. I think and hope they enjoyed the show and found the day memorable.
This unique outing has been months in the making as Lexie created this special project called Mitzvahs Through Music in preparation for her Bat Mitzvah on October 6th. While Lexies 50-year old cooperative Hebrew School based at SUNY Purchase, called The Childrens Jewish Education Group of Westchester, did not require Lexie to do a project, Lexie wanted to do one anyway. She wanted to find a way to combine her love of music and theater with her passion for helping.
As Lexie started brainstorming ideas with her parents, she came up with a creative solution: She would take kids who ordinarily dont have the chance to visit Broadway to a musical. This inspiring idea led to her launch a Mitzvahs Through Music fundraising mission that was so successful that she doubled her original financial goal. Initially, she was hoping to raise $2,500 but actually reached $4,800, nearly double that amount, notes Jennifer Barber, Lexies Mom. Now, she can take two groups of 10 students to see a Broadway show.
The first thing Lexie needed to do was find the right group of local students to take with her to Broadway. After doing some research, she contacted Gerry Goldberg at Family Services of Westchester, a 59-year-old non-profit based in Port Chester with six other sites throughout Westchester. Goldberg, Director of Volunteers and Development Outreach, put Lexie in touch with Marsha Tom, Director of FSWs Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The two FSW employees suggested that Lexie consider the kids in the GPS program for her project. GPS is a special initiative of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program focusing on Mount Vernon youth, ages 10-15 who are at risk for gang behavior and negative peer pressure. A trip to a Broadway play would definitely be a special treat for this group, Lexie reasoned. After she partnered with FSW, Lexie started to spread the word about her Mitzvahs Through Music project, which at first was quite challenging. She sent out emails to family and friends explaining her project and asking for donations. She received a decent response, but decided that more effort was needed to reach her goal. She handed out flyers, started a Facebook page, and even launched her own website with an original Mitzvahs Through Music logo that she created.
To officially kick off her Mitzvahs Through Music campaign, Lexie held what she called a Mitzvah Day on June 3rd and invited the whole town of Ardsley to come out to her house, where she set up a bake sale, raffle, plant sale and some fun activities. She also sold Mitzvahs Through Music T-shirts, which included her newly designed logo on them. Despite the rain, nearly 100 people turned out for the event, and Lexie was thrilled with the response.
After Mitzvah Day, word was getting out around town about Lexies project, and the donations kept rolling in. Lexies friends sported her T-Shirts and posted positive comments about her project on Facebook. All her efforts paid off as Lexie can now treat two groups of 10 GPS students to Broadway shows. Lexies mother says she is incredibly proud of all Lexie has accomplished. All I did was make the first phone call to Family Services of Westchester and then Lexie ran with the idea and the project, notes Jennifer. This has been an amazing experience for our entire family.
I was so happy seeing the kids excited to see Wicked and have the chance to talk with the cast, says Lexie, who says she has no plans to stop her efforts once her Bat Mitzvah is over. I know now that I want to keep the momentum going and take 100 more kids to Broadway, says Lexie.
We are so impressed with this caring young tween who wanted to help others as she celebrates her passage into adulthood, notes FSWs Goldberg. She created a plan and executed it beautifully. Its clear that Lexie has a bright, promising future ahead.
To read more about Lexies project, buy a T-shirt or make a donation, visit her website at www.Broadwaymitzvahs.webs.com.
Kylee Harris, a South Salem resident and graduate of John Jay High School, is now a junior in the Honors Program at the University of Delaware. Kylee spent the summer interning with the Development Department of Family Services of Westchester.