Teen’s foundation to facilitate toy drive

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published November 6, 2013

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Danielle Szajna, 16, of Shelby Township, launched the Pink Girls Club Foundation at the age of 12 to benefit those affected by cancer after her cousin passed away from breast cancer in 2008.

On Nov. 23 and 24, Szajna and members of the Pink Girls Club will be at Hessell’s Greenhouse in Shelby Township from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. to collect unwrapped toys for children with cancer. The toys, as well as any donations, will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Kids Kicking Cancer for the holidays.

“It really struck me how positive (my cousin) was. She wasn’t scared of cancer,” Szajna said. “I wanted to take away from that. Our whole main drive is about bringing optimism and having peace toward overcoming cancer, so in their head (cancer patients) say they can.”

Szajna’s cousin passed away at the age of 34 after battling cancer for five years. When she was 28, she found a lump in her chest that her doctor misdiagnosed as a cyst and, when she got tested after a bad cough, her cancer had advanced to stage III.

While Szajna said she began the foundation with a focus on breast cancer, she has since branched out to all types of cancer in people of all ages. She now has 15 volunteers that work with her to conduct events like Cycle for Life, smoothie stands and an expo at a local church.

“The other thing that got me more upset was knowing young kids, who haven’t lived a full life or haven’t gotten to experience the things we do, die battling (cancer),” she said.

Szajna wanted to raise money and provide support for those battling cancer and let them know that her foundation is there for them.

“Giving (money) to people who need it, for people who can’t do something because they’re sick from chemotherapy and may not be able to walk because they’re so weak, knowing we’re their hands and feet for them … I don’t think there’s a better feeling,” Szajna said.

Szajna is a junior at Romeo High School and, besides the Pink Girls Club Foundation, is involved in the National Honor Society and softball, and she serves as class president.

Her mother, Paulette Szajna, said she helps when they need an adult signature and also gave her daughter rides before she could drive, but that Danielle pretty much runs the foundation herself.

“She’s very passionate about it and spends every minute she has on it, other than her busy high school schedule,” Paulette Szajna said. “She’s serious about this. If she can help somebody, I think that helps her go to sleep.”

She added that she is excited to see where the foundation is going to go in 20 years and that she believes it’s in its baby steps now.

Hessell’s Greenhouse is located at 14497 23 Mile Road, west of Hayes Road and north of 23 Mile Road. Cash donations or unwrapped toys can also be dropped off or mailed to 55184 Timbers Edge Drive, Shelby Township, MI 48316.

To find out more about the foundation or to contact them about fundraising events, visit www.pinkgirlsclubfoundation.org.