“Remember: Above all, Stand Tall.” This simple yet impactful phrase is the motto of the student-led fundraising program, “The Giraffe Plan.”
This fundraising campaign was built on the hopes of raising college tuition money for Adam, a 12 year old child that recently lost his mother to breast cancer. Over the past several months, siblings Leah Gurksi ‘23 and Wilhelm Gurski ‘21 have successfully raised over $7200 for Adam.
Viola, Adam’s mother, had taken care of Leah and Wil since they were babies. Viola continued to have a profound impact on their lives, Leah even describing Viola as her “second mother.” Tragically, in August of 2020, Viola was diagnosed with breast cancer that spread throughout her body. She soon passed away on September 26, devastating everyone who had been touched by her kindness.
While deeply impacted by this tragedy themelves, Leah and her brother felt called to take action and support Viola’s family in any way they could. Within a few weeks they decided to sell clothing in order to fund Adam’s college tuition.
As Leah describes, “My brother and I figured that it would make a big difference for the family if Adam’s future was more secure. So we decided to create The Giraffe Plan LLC, inspired by Viola’s favorite animal, to spread her love and confidence the same way she did for us.
Initiating their fundraising plan took around five months of careful planning, organization and support from other Friars. Dylan Fu ‘22 worked as a graphic designer for this project, helping Leah and Wil with their website, sweatshirt designs, website and social media.
Dylan expresses his gratitude for getting the opportunity to be a part of The Giraffe Plan: “As soon as Wil approached me about the idea of starting a company in order to give back, I knew I wanted to be part of this amazing cause.”
Along with Dylan, Maddie Miller ‘21 helped to kickstart The Giraffe Plan.
Due to a generous sponsor, Wil and Leah were able to have their sweatshirts professionally manufactured. The two siblings then hand packaged and delivered each package individually.
Despite the enormous amount of work, Leah explained that her biggest motivator was simply trying to care for and support Adam, whom she explains is, “just as much a brother to me as Wil is.” In addition, the siblings wanted to honor Viola’s memory and continue the legacy of unconditional love and kindness that she left behind.
“Viola was one of my biggest role models throughout my whole life,” Leah expressed, continuing, “Being able to do something to give back to her family and honor her was the only motivation I needed to make this happen.”
When asked about what they learned from this experience, Leah explained that not only did they learn the benefits of hard work, they learned the power of community.
In Leah’s words, “When people band together, big things can be done.”
The impact of Leah and Wil’s continued dedication towards giving back is visible as students throughout the school proudly sport their Giraffe Plan sweatshirts.
Grateful for this support from her peers and community in general, Leah exclaims, “The support from the Fenwick community has been overwhelming and incredible. Seeing fellow classmates wear their sweatshirts around the school is so amazing and shows that the Fenwick community is as strong as can be. It is this community that reminds us of Viola everyday.”
In order to continue supporting The Giraffe Plan’s mission, students can purchase a sweatshirt, donate, or tell others about the program. Leah and Wil would like to thank all the teachers and students who supported them and made The Giraffe Plan possible. For more information, visit thegiraffeplan.com or @thegiraffeplan on Instagram.