Though just 12 years old, Tess Kramer is already a fundraiser extraordinaire.
She has raised upward of $4,000 for her favorite charities — ranging from the orphanage in India where she lived as a baby to a shelter for young adults who were kicked out of their homes for being homosexual, bisexual or transgender.
And she has done it all on her own — making and selling bracelets, sugar scrubs, dog biscuits and reindeer food.
“I just had a thought about my community and how it needed help in certain ways, like poverty, but I didn’t know the word at that time,” Tess explains of why she became interested in raising money for nonprofits when she was in kindergarten.
The bubbly sixth-grader was in an Indian orphanage in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) until she was 11 months old. That’s when Ellen Korenblat and Luke Kramer adopted her and brought her to live in the United States with her new older brother, Henry, now 15.
Her biggest fundraising project, to date, has been making bracelets out of Indian glass beads and selling them for $10 each. After expenses, she raised $1,500 for her first home — the orphanage in Kolkata. When she was in fourth grade, her family made a trip to India so she could visit her homeland and personally give the money to the orphanage.
“We saw some of the babies and it was really fun,” she says. “But it was also a tiny bit sad because there were children with disabilities that have been there for years and haven’t gotten adopted.”
When she decides on a project, her father gives her startup money to buy the materials for her products.
“I give her $50 to $100 and say, ‘This is your seed money. You can initially buy all of your supplies with this, but you have to create a budget; you have to figure out how much money you want to make and how much you want to sell each item for; and then if you need more money to reinvest back into your goods, then you can take that out of any of those profits.’ But that seed money usually covers most of the expenses in the project,” Luke Kramer says.
Tess says that after she gets the seed money, she gets out her typewriter and starts working on a budget. Most of the products are sold through the family’s Facebook page.
“I figure out how much I am going to sell each unit for based on the total amount that everything is because I have to make some money, you know,” Tess says.
When Tess was 9, she made 3,000 dog biscuits for Out of the Woods Animal Rescue of Arkansas — the organization where her family adopted their dog, Ollie. She sold them for $3 for 15 biscuits — two large ones and 13 smaller ones — raising $300. She packaged the biscuits in purple bags tied with a ribbon.
“I thought we need to find something healthier and better in general for a dog, and I kind of researched some recipes and kind of combined stuff and came up with this recipe that included peanut butter and flour. That was like all it was,” Tess says.
Two years later, she made 1,100 dog biscuits for Stop Animal Cruelty of Hot Springs and Garland County, where the family adopted their second dog, Bitsy.
She has also made reindeer food out of glitter and oats, raising $500 for Toys for Tots. Parents buy reindeer food so their children can sprinkle it on their lawns on Christmas Eve to “feed” Santa’s team. The food is “probably a pain” for parents to clean up so their children will think the reindeer ate it, she giggles.
“I love all my toys and I have so many,” Tess says. “And I thought some kids don’t have this stuff. … Then I decided I will research where people donate, and Toys for Tots came up and I looked at it and thought, ‘This looks like a great organization.'”
Her latest project was making sugar scrubs out of coconut oil, sugar and essential oils and selling her product for $2 a jar. She ended up making $500 for Lucie’s Place, a shelter that houses homeless lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual young adults.
“It was amazing,” says Penelope Poppers, Lucie’s Place executive director. “I don’t know many adults alone who have raised that much money for nonprofits — much less 12-year-olds.”
Tess says she found out about Lucie’s Place from Henry, who did a school project on the organization.
“It shelters LGBTQ young adults that have been kicked out of their homes just for being LGBTQ,” Poppers says, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals. “I just think it is horrible. It doesn’t change them as a person. They are the same person. They just don’t have the same sexual orientation as you may like.”
Poppers says kids such as Tess reaffirm the belief that younger people care about their community.
“It is going to be interesting to watch her to see what she is doing in 10 years,” Poppers says. “I bet it will be pretty cool.”
Holly Wolfe is Tess’ math teacher at Pulaski Heights Middle School. She also lives close to the Kramer/Korenblat home and has watched Tess grow up. She says Tess learned to be generous by watching her “amazing” parents.
“She has a grateful heart,” Wolfe says of Tess. “She is amazing. She is overwhelming. She is fantastic.”
When asked what she thinks Tess will be like as an adult, Wolfe says she believes her student will be a philanthropist.
“I think she will be a leader. She is one of a kind. She really is,” Wolfe says.
Tess says she is not sure what she will do for her next fundraiser, but she is looking hard at The Van, a nonprofit that drives around Little Rock to take supplies and food to homeless people.
“I have The Van sweatshirt and some other things and I just think it is a great thing,” she says.
High Profile on 05/13/2018