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Kansas City BBYO Teen Raises $40,000 for Brain Cancer Resesarch

Olathe, KS—April 20, 2011 is a big day in the lives of people battling brain cancer. That's because it's a big day in the life of a teenager who has become their champion. Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever Meryl Engle's unique fund raising project is bringing in more than $40,000 for her to donate to Head for the Cure.

Fifteen-year-old Meryl Engle and her uncle, Jim Engle, open the front door to a beautiful new home in the last stages of construction and step into the expansive kitchen. And Meryl looks around in admiration -- and pride.

"After so many months of working on it, it's finally here," says Meryl to her uncle. In a very real sense, this is the house that Meryl built.Oh, sure, it was really put up by her Uncle Jim's home construction company but Meryl has given the beautiful new house in the Prarie Brook subdivision it's heart.

"I was amazed how many people wanted to help," says Meryl with a huge smile. The house sale just closed and largely because of Meryl's efforts, it has produced more than $40,000 for her to donate to Kansas City-based Head for the Cure, an organization funding brain cancer research and treatment.

"Cancer has touched my family," says Meryl. "And Head for the Cure was founded in honor of two of my classmates' parents who passed away. And the charity hit home."

Meryl came up with all that money by getting her uncle to partner with her on this house -- a good fit since he's wanted to do a project for charity for quite awhile.

"But I got so busy with work I could not find the time to sit down and say, 'I'm going to do it now,'" says Engle. "So when Meryl came to me with this opportunity, it was just fantastic. I was just so impressed that a 15 year old was the one that got me more involved with the community and to really look at philanthropy under a different light."

Their deal? He'd build the house and she'd connect with scores of his subcontractors and suppliers and trade workers. With passionate, heartfelt emails, letters and calls, she convinced many of them to do work and provide supplies at free or reduced costs and some also donated money to her cause.

"She got people really excited about it," says Engle, " Which, number one, says a lot about Meryl's ability and, number two, says a lot about the construction industry really wanting to help the community despite a down market."

"I wanted the subcontractors to feel like by contributing to the project that they were not just helping my uncle and I accomplish something we wanted to do but that they were really changing the world," says Meryl.

This isn't Meryl's first venture into big time charity fund raising. This active, academically-gifted, accomplished sophomore at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, KS sprang into it last year as part of a unique youth social and community event. Last spring, Meryl was queen of Matzo Ball, an event put on by Nordaunian, a chapter of the local B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, a Jewish youth group which Meryl helps lead.

"Our youth group focuses a lot on helping the community in different ways," says Meryl. She sold a slew of tickets to Matzo Ball and got donations, raising several thousand dollars that went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer. Her success inspired Meryl to shoot for the stars with the charity house project.

"I feel like I can do anything if I can, from an idea, create a house," says Meryl. "Standing here in a house that I helped contribute to, it's really empowering. It makes me feel like I can accomplish anything now." Changing the world -- with a champion's heart -- and so much more.

Meryl's Uncle Jim closed on the sale of the charity house on April 20. And Meryl plans to present the check for $40,000-plus at this year's Matzo Ball on April 30th as the outgoing queen.

You can nominate someone to be a Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever. Go to the main Reaching 4 Excellence page of this website. Past stories are posted there and at the bottom of the page you'll find criteria for the recognition and a form to complete to make a nomination.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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