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PS 98 hopes water bottle fund-raiser causes splash

A team of Douglaston students, who banded together to raise money for children in Africa by selling their own brand of bottled water, received a dose of inspiration to continue their efforts Monday.

Talia Leman, 13, a nationally recognized philanthropist from Waukee, Iowa, visited the group at PS 98 to congratulate them for the money they have raised so far and to offer encouraging words.

"They have the power and they can do it," Talia said of the seven students who forfeit precious recess time to sell the bottles.

The group started selling the bottled water last month after learning about Talia's organization, RandomKid, which helps children create and sell their own brand of bottled water. Money from the PS 98 water will purchase a water pump in Africa.

During her visit, Talia talked about what she calls the "power of any one" and how even children have the power to give back.

The students, including Matthew Pereira, Brittney Wang, Tanae Rosenberg, Cosette Rinab, Michael Campese, Paige Sweeney, and Brandon Tse, learned about the bottled water project in their morning reading group.

Frances Pinto, the group's teacher, read a story about other kids who sold bottled water and her students wanted to do the same.

"When they read about kids joining together through RandomKid to help children in other parts of the world, that was it. They were in," she said.

Pinto contacted the organization and the children started creating their brand. The group decided to call their water "Sip and Save a Life" because, as 8-year-old Paige Sweeney explains, "You know that you are sipping water and you also know that you are saving a life."

At lunch, the children forfeit recess time to sell their product, which goes for $1 a bottle.

Paige said she feels good about selling the water "because I know that I'm helping people in Africa."

In roughly three weeks, the children have sold over 1,600 bottles of water. Only about 96 bottles remain and Michael Campese, 9, is confident that his group will sell out before June 26, the last day of school.

RandomKid was founded in 2005 after Talia, then 10, led several nationwide campaigns where children raised money for Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims. The effort reportedly raised $10 million dollars.

"Anyone could have stepped forward and done what I did," Talia said about the money she helped raise. "I want RandomKid to empower [other kids] to take the next step."

To purchase "Sip and Save a Life" water, contact Frances Pinto at mrsfpinto@yahoo.com or to learn more about RandomKid at www.randomkid.org.

Reach reporter Katy Gagnon by e-mail at kgagnon@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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