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Changing the world...


Erica Cale keeps the faith with mission



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Erica Cale and her father, Jeff Cale, sing about making the world a better place, at Erica's Pearl Ball fund raiser for Helping Hearts Helping Hands. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
March 30, 2011 - Erica Cale made about $400 in 2007 in her first fund raiser for Helping Hearts Helping Hands.

This year's Pearl Ball dinner dance fund raiser, March 26, made about $30,000.

"It's huge, it keeps growing and growing," said Cale, 18, who founded the non-profit group, whose motto is "Changing the world, one child, one family, one face, one place ... at a time," in 2007 at the age of 15.

Her parents Nancy and Jeff Cale of Clarkston, family, friends, and supporters from all over Michigan, as well as other states and Canada, attended the fund raiser. About 80 attended her first dinner-dance fund raiser in 2008, growing to 120 the next year.

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"Last year we had about 270," Jeff said. "This year we have more than 300 – we're maxed out, a happy dilemma."

"It was an amazing response, not just from Clarkston people and businesses, but from other areas, too," said her mother, Nancy Cale. "It's so amazing – we're behind her all the way."

"She's an amazing young lady," said Chuck Fortinberry, Clarkston business owner who attended the event. "That a young person can have that kind of focus and bring this to fruition in such a short period of time – it's inspiring. If she can do it, I can do it."

Supporters enjoyed live and silent auction, dinner, and dessert. Music and dancing with DJ Ben Mackie started at about 10 p.m., a chance for Erica to have fun with her friends.

"This is phenomenal," said Preston Tocco, her friend of eight years. "It's true and honest, not a company you don't know where the proceeds will go."

The Rev. Richard Dake, Erica's pastor at Clarkston United Methodist Church, helped out by emceeing a live auction. Her former principal at Independence Elementary, Chris Turner, helped out with the silent auction.

"She's an outstanding young lady," Turner said. "Erica went to Independence – I've known her for years. She's always been a generous person, helping others, an inspirational lady."

Erica returned to her hometown of Clarkston early this month to plan and organize the fund raiser, her first visit to the United States in months.

"It's very eye opening, so different," Erica said. "I definitely appreciate Clarkston more. It makes me want to get out there and help out more."

Erica spends nine months of the year in Honduras, distributing food, water, clothing, and other items to villages, and setting up an orphanage. She received into her care two girls, sisters Clara, 13, and Carolina, 7, last February.

"I love it – it's my dream come true," Erica said. "This is God's plan for me, for the rest of my life."

The next step is to receive babies and infants for adoption in the United States.

"Our long-term goal is 12-15 babies and infants," she said.

Erica, who has two brothers, Trevor and Sean, and sister, Savannah, got the idea for the mission in 2007 at the age of 15, while visiting a friend in Honduras with Nancy.

"I thought maybe it was a fad, something age related," Jeff said. "But then we went there, scouted property, organized fund raisers, set up a 501c3 and a board of directors, set up the website – she dotted the 'i's' and crossed the 't's.'"

Erica, who is bilingual, finished her high school studies online in 2008, and is a college student, studying computer design and graphics online.

"When she was growing up, I anticipated she would go to college, maybe out of state," Jeff said. "This is a challenge. I never dreamed I'd be visiting her 3,000 miles away. That's the toughest part. But she's one committed girl."

"It's kind of a scary situation, an 18-year-old woman in a third world country," said Nancy, who's traveled to Honduras 14 times to help her daughter. "It can be very dangerous, but she's meant to be there. We've made a lot of friends and contacts there."

For more information, check www.helpingheartshelpinghands.org or call 248-660-4507.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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