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Africa bound teens hold fundraisers

Coco Chanel gets some lovin' and a free bandana after her bath at the dog wash. Kris Stadalsky photo
Coco Chanel gets some lovin' and a free bandana after her bath at the dog wash. Kris Stadalsky photo

A group of Minooka and Channahon teens are teaming up to raise funds to get to Africa in the spring to help at an orphanage.

And they are on their way to raising the $3,200 a person it will cost to go on the mission trip with Village Christian Church.

Two weeks ago I was heading to get dog food for my two pups. As I pulled into the Ace Hardware parking lot in Minooka, where the Forepaws pet store is, I noticed the Africa-bound teens having a dog wash. They looked like they were having a blast soaping up various sizes of dogs.

My two French bulldogs – Coco Chanel, who is almost 3, and Beau Jangles, who is 3 months – were poking their heads out the back window to see what was going on. I stopped and got Coco a bath and donated to the cause – the money went toward the mission trip fund.

The funny thing was, two of my neighborhood pet sitters, Ella Benhart and Adi Murphy, were in the group of dog washers, and Coco went all gaga over seeing them. She didn’t even mind getting a bath, something she typically hates.

This past Saturday, the fundraiser of the month was a dress exchange where teens could buy gently used homecoming or prom dresses at a fraction of the original cost. The dresses were donated by local kids, and the resale was held at Minooka’s Community room, said Adi’s mom, Hope Murphy, who organized the project.

They have more fundraisers in store, Adi said, each one organized by another parent, and the proceeds are shared among the group. There are 11 teens going from the Channahon and Minooka area.

The trip is being coordinated through the Village Christian Church and Hearts for Africa, a nonprofit public charity that works with churches to provide self-sustainable homes for orphans and offers a way for people to travel to the small African nation of Swaziland to provide care and hope to the children.

Hearts for Africa’s Project Canaan Children, where the teens are headed, is a 2,500-acre development project that is trying to bring together expertise, resources such as growing their own food and people who care to find a holistic approach to the complex problems.

In July, there were 164 abandoned or vulnerable children living at Project Canaan. The project receives, on average, a new baby every 14 days. By 2020, it could have as many as 260 children living at the project, so it’s planning for housing, education, staff and food production with that in mind.

When the teens from our area get to Swaziland during spring break in 2018, they will be working with other volunteers and employees from surrounding African communities to help with the children and work on the buildings.

The students will dress the way they dress in Africa, eat what they eat and do everything as if they are one of them, Adi said.

Adi decided to get on board when she heard how much the last trip effected the project.

“It’s a life-changing experience,” Adi said. “I am looking forward to helping out with the orphans.”

This is the first big mission trip for these teens – although many have done things around their communities.

Ella said she is looking forward to diving into the work and getting out of her comfort zone.

The dog wash fundraiser was a big success. They cleaned about 30 or 40 dogs, Ella said. More upcoming fundraisers might include a cornhole toss competition, bake sales, Christmas cookie swap and a costume swap for Halloween.

For information on what the teens are up to, visit the church’s website at

• Kris Stadalsky writes about people and topics in areas southwest of Joliet. Reach her at

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