ONE OF BEVERLY BROWN’S favorite places is City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico. An avid outdoorsperson and camping enthusiast, Beverly vividly remembers her delight when upon entering the park as a young girl, she read the signs that said, “Please play on the rocks.”
“I had expected the signs to tell us what not to do,” she recalled. “Instead, we were being encouraged to explore. It was an unexpected surprise.”
Exploring and enjoying the unexpected is something Beverly has been doing for most of her 17 years of life. At merely nine years old, she co-created a fashion show fundraiser and workshop to benefit pediatric leukemia patients with her sister Mary-Brent. The theme of the fundraiser was, “To be beautiful, you have to be yourself.” It was a sold out event raising over $11,000. Not long after, the two burgeoning philanthropists created the Lemonade Brigade®, a program that provides youth with tools, training and support to start their own businesses and give back to their communities.
Taking on a huge endeavor at such a young age would be daunting for most. But Beverly knows that to accomplish something big you need to think big, take risks, and be prepared. “When we decided that we wanted to put on our first fashion show fundraiser, we took a ‘go big or go home’ approach,” she explained. “Before we even posed the idea to our parents, we had already researched how we would put it together, where we would host it, and how much it would cost. Even then, it took a while to convince our parents that we were committed to seeing it through.”
Now, eight years later, that commitment is readily apparent. A senior at St. Scholastica Academy, Beverly has seen the seeds of service they’ve sown during their pre-teen and teenage years pay fruitful dividends. Through their Kids Wanna Help® nonprofit, youth have raised $140,689 and donated it to causes that are important to them. But perhaps even more significant is the message these youth have received. Through Kids Wanna Help, they have been encouraged to explore, to try things they thought kids couldn’t do, and to take risks to achieve higher goals. By being encouraged to “play on the rocks,” they have experiences under their belt that will give them confidence to continue exploring without worrying about what other people may think. Acknowledging these efforts, the Association of Fundraising Professionals—Greater Northshore Chapter recognized Kids Wanna Help as Foundation of the Year in 2012, an honor which Beverly says makes her “very proud.”
Always looking for the next challenge, Beverly added programs under the Kids Wanna Help umbrella after Mary-Brent left for college. One program is a unique partnership with Lyon Elementary, a Title 1 school in Covington. Lemonade Brigade workshops have been integrated into the third grade economics curriculum. Beverly teaches classes during the semester where she introduces the students to the concepts of supply and demand, fiscal responsibility, marketing, management, and charitable giving by walking the students through the process of opening a lemonade stand. Teachers explore these concepts with the students throughout the year as they prepare to open and manage their own professional lemonade stands. The group made their debut during Monster Mash—raising money for the St. Tammany Parish Hospital Parenting Center—and will soon open on campus where they will sell lemonade to the entire student body once a month. Kids Wanna Help matched the funds raised at Monster Mash with a donation to Lyon Elementary that will fund the third graders’ first visit to the State Capitol.
Teacher Samantha Anderson explained that the program at Lyon Elementary has energized students while also teaching real-life skills and developing a lifelong commitment to community service. “Beverly has such an exceptional rapport with the kids. The fact that she was their age when she started really hits home for them. Beverly is proof that age doesn’t have to be a factor in achieving your goals.”
Beverly believes the key to all community service activities is for people to choose causes about which they are most passionate. This is especially true for children. “As kids research the types of charities and organizations out there, they begin to get a bigger picture of the needs of their community. One charity may not be the right one for them now, but it may become the right fit in the future,” she said.
While Beverly’s own community service interests run the gamut, fortunately for Covington they include the arts. It was her interest in the arts that compelled Beverly to begin volunteering with the Three Rivers Arts Festival six years ago. The festival, Covington’s largest annual event, brings 200 juried artists and 50,000 visitors to the city each November. Starting as a co-chair of the Children’s Discovery Area, Beverly has also served as a block captain and as chairperson of the Three Rivers Race. Last year Beverly was asked to take on the role as volunteer coordinator for the entire festival. This is the second year that she will be working in this capacity—recruiting, training and coordinating schedules for more than 100 volunteers over the two-day event.
“Beverly has been a valuable asset to the festival,” said event coordinator Sarada Bonnett. “Many people would be overwhelmed with managing a project of this size. Add the fact that you need to manage both adults and teens, and it truly becomes a daunting task. Yet, Beverly has been unfazed. She handles everything with assuredness and grace.”
Beverly’s collective experiences and adventurous spirit will no doubt serve her well in life. Combining her love of science and interest in space, she plans to pursue a career in aerospace engineering. Beverly said her original plans were to help put other people into space, but she is now opening up to the idea of going herself, if the opportunity arises. Taking a cue from her experiences rock climbing and rappelling, Beverly admits to being nervous before she steps off the cliff, but says she has “learned not to let fear keep her from doing new things.” Perhaps one day, Beverly will continue playing on the rocks—on Mars.