Anna Maddox may be only 13 years old, but she’s keenly aware of the dilemmas facing abandoned and at-risk children in Romania.
The straight-A student from St. Barnabas Catholic School was first exposed to their tribulations when volunteering at a Bucharest hospital last year through Romanian Children’s Relief. Bucharest is the capital of Romania, which is in Southeast Europe.
She and her mom, Carissa Maddox, and older sister Miriam spent a long weekend at the facility, where they fed, held and played with children and changed diapers and clothing.
“It was a lot of fun, but we couldn’t change their diapers as often as I would have liked because they were in short supply, much like ointment, clothing and other necessities,” said Anna, who has two younger siblings, Ryan and Lainey. “It broke my heart not to be able to change a wet diaper when it was needed.”
The hospital was not as up-to-date as American ones, but it was exceptionally clean with a warm environment, said Carissa Maddox. “It was an amazing experience.”
They were living outside of London at the time because family patriarch Matthew Maddox’s job with Eli Lilly and Co. took him overseas
The Maddoxes were introduced to the relief organization through Anna’s fifth-grade teacher, Wendy Gediman, at TASIS England.
Anna enjoyed the experience so much that she’s flying back in July to work for a week at the hospital and one in Bistrita-Nasaud. “I am not afraid to go over there by myself. I think it will be a great adventure. I love working with kids.”
Mom isn’t worried either because some of the family’s dear friends in London will greet Anna when she arrives.
And Anna isn’t flying over there empty-handed. She raised more than $1,000 through a bake sale at St. Barnabas, and the money will be used buy supplies for the hospitals.
Both mom and daughter were thrilled by the sale’s success. “The St. Barnabas School community really came together to support Anna’s mission,” Carissa said. “A lot of people baked cakes, cookies and other goodies. Many customers said, ‘Keep the change.’ ”
In a flyer that promoted the event, Anna reflected on her time with the Romanian children: “I wanted the children, especially Andrea, to know that someone cared. I wanted her to have someone to bond with. I’ll never forget when I put her down and she wailed. At that moment I knew we had made a connection.”
“Anna is an amazing kid,” said grandmother Susie Anderson. “She has a huge heart and is always doing something for someone. She was so touched by working with the children. Anna knows the importance of what she is doing, but she doesn’t want any recognition.”
One of Anna’s favorite pastimes is horseback riding, and that’s something she does twice a week at Four Willows Farm in Greenwood, where she also works with the horses. “I brush the horses and get them ready for riders. I love horses,” she said.
Love seems to emanate from Anna’s heart.