By Joseph Robertia
While there are many lessons that are easy for kids to learn, having empathy for others can sometimes be more challenging for younger kids who haven’t quite passed the developmental stage of assuming the world revolves around them. But for one 10-year-old Soldotna girl, the ability to understand what another person is going though has already been embraced.
“Some people don’t have what I have and I wanted to help them have more,” said Emma Mullet, who had an idea to hold a five-kilometer walk/run in Kenai on Saturday to raise funds for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which works toward cures and prevention for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. No children are denied treatment based on their family’s ability to pay.
Emma’s mother, Monica Mullet, said that both her daughters have cared about issues larger than their own. Her oldest daughter, Thera, started a recycling program at her school, while Emma has been focused on St. Jude for several years.
“She’s always been very giving, but a few years ago she had a representative from St. Jude speak to her kindergarten class. She came home that day and smashed her piggy bank wanting to donate, and she’s given ever since,” Mullet said.
Mullet is touched by Emma’s charitable inclination, but also understands firsthand empathy for a sick child. When Emma was 18 months old, doctors deduced that she had an enlarged thymus gland, which can be indicative of a tumor. For two weeks the family had to wait for test results, fearing the worst. In the end Emma did not have a life-threatening tumor, but the family never forgot that feeling.
“That process of waiting and worrying really taught us all empathy for what parents really going through it are dealing with, and we’ve never forgotten it,” she said.
Emma, now in fifth grade at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School, has donated regularly, but this year she wanted to do more. In her monthly newsletters from St. Jude, she read about fundraising runs that were going to take place across the country this November, and she wanted to participate.
“I was like, ‘Yay, I can do this,’ but then I realized that none of them were in Alaska. The closest was in Seattle, so I thought I’d organize one here,” she said.
Emma’s mother put her in contact with Johna Beech, president and chief operating officer for the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, in the hope Emma could network with the proper Kenai city and parks department people to get the run approved.
“I thought it was an incredible idea,” Beech said. “Her being so young and wanting to help, I did my best to reach out and make it happen.”
The run began at the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center and wound through Old Town and nearby neighborhoods. There was a $10 donation to participate. By the end of the day Emma had raised $1,075 between registration fees and online donations, and more was expected to come in from collection sites put out at her school and from people mailing money.
Emma’s goal is to donate $1,500. Including her own donation.
“I give whatever money I make from chores, like doing dishes and cleaning dog poop,” she said.
Emma’s father, Tim, said that he is proud of his daughter, not just for caring about others, but for her inspiration to brainstorm an idea to do something about it, and for having the carry-through to see it to completion.
“All of these things are important life skills that she’ll need in college, graduate school and in life,” he said.
He added that Emma hopes to make the run an annual event in Kenai. In future years she hopes to get approval from St. Jude to become a sanctioned event for the organization in Alaska.
“This is just the beginning for her,” her dad said. “She has great ideas and I was to support her as she keeps going with them.”