Giving Back

A Roxbury Kid with a Heart the Size of Warren Buffett's Bank Account

Emma Wilk Credits: Karen Wilk
Emma's lanyards Credits: Karen Wilk
Emma's garlands Credits: Karen Wilk

Roxbury, NJ – In June, Warren Buffett gave about $2.8 billion to charity.

Tomorrow, 12-year-old Emma Wilk of Kenvil will be donating about $300 to charity.

Buffett gave a boatload of Berkshire Hathaway stock. He probably signed a bunch of papers or pressed some keyboard buttons. There were lawyers involved.

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Wilk will be carrying a coffee can stuffed with bills and coins. It will be money the 7th Grader collected by selling handmade lanyards, garlands and hair bows. She’ll be driven by her mom to Englewood Hospital, her mom’s workplace. She’ll hand her can to a lady at the hospital fundraising foundation.

“I bring it exactly how I made it,” she said.

Only Warren Buffett knows what else he could do with $2.8 billion instead of giving it away, but it doesn’t take much imagination to know what a middle-school student could do with $300. That kind of dough can go pretty far on the iTunes Store or at Cliff’s ice cream store in Ledgewood.

So what motivates Emma Wilk to give away her hard-earned cash? She said it began about four years ago when her father, Jim, told her he had a brother he never had a chance to meet.

“My dad had a brother named Russell who died at 3 years old when he got leukemia,” said Wilk. Wilk’s father had yet to be born when Russell died.

The story touched Wilk’s heart. “It kind of shocked me a little,” she said. “When I heard that story is when I really thought about how can I help with this.”

The next summer, she set up a lemonade stand outside her house. She made $34 and decided to give it to the hospital's cancer center.

The next summer she made $111 by walking around Horseshoe Lake Park in Succasunna (while her younger brother played soccer in the annual Kickoff Classic tournament) selling lanyards, bows “and other stuff” she learned to make in Girl Scouts.

She did the same thing this year but also set up a stand at this month’s Home for the Holiday festival on Main Street in Succasunna, and she plans to do it again next year along with the Kickoff Classic.

“I call it Team Russell Lanyards for Breast Cancer,” said Wilk. “At the hospital, they really appreciate it. It’s something they’re really happy about.”

That feeling goes both ways, according to Wilk, who’s found that giving money to charity feels pretty good.

She’s also pleased with the way her idea, to sell her creations and donate the money, is growing. “I’m actually really happy about where it’s going,” she said. “I didn’t think it would actually go this far.”

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