Carnivals of all kinds can be fun, but when the proceeds go to a deserving family, they serve a purpose worthy of praise. High school graduate and 9-12th grade Y-PIF award winner Rachel Muzenberger is worthy of just that.
Muzenberger and her friends joined together to organize and plan a neighborhood carnival. Her neighbor and friend, Breanna Strange was the inspiration for it all.
Breanna has Dystonia, a condition where her brain is unable to accurately distribute information, making it nearly impossible for her to control her movements. Munzenberger, her sister Hannah and her friend Sarah decided that they wanted to support the Strange family and host an event to raise money for Breanna’s medication, medical procedures and other needs.
“It started in 2008 when she (Breanna) was going in for hip surgery. She has a lot of surgeries and would be in a full body cast. We wanted to do an event to help raise money to pay for medication and just support the family,” Muzenberger said.
Muzenberger and her friends brainstormed event ideas and ultimately decided a carnival would be the best way to get neighbors and the community involved. The girls came up with simple carnival games they could build at home and enlisted some help from their parents.
“Originally we wanted to do a concert or something like that, but I am not a singer,” Muzenberger joked. “My mom helped us come up with the carnival idea. We made games that you would see at any carnival like beanbag toss and sucker pull. I think our parents were a little worried it wouldn’t work out, or that we wouldn’t get as much money as we thought, but we had full confidence.”
Muzenberger and her friends and family donated their time and money to the event so that all proceeds earned could go to Breanna’s family. In the first year, they raised $1,000, all of which was given directly to the Strange family. Muzenberger and her friends decided that after such a great first year, they would make the event an annual thing.
“I was worried because they were putting so much time and effort in and I didn’t want them to be heartbroken. I was proud they wanted to do it but worried they wouldn’t see what they were hoping to see. We were shocked the first year, but I was hesitant about making it annual,” said Kara Muzenberger. “But the girls were determined and over the years they raised about $8,000 and it goes to a great family.”
Muzenberger and her friends worked to keep the carnival fresh every year, and reinvented the games to match new themes centered on Breanna and her interests. They also worked to includ donated raffle items from local businesses and a concession stand with snacks and drinks for the neighborhood to enjoy.
“Since we did it annually, we would come up with themes and change the games around a little bit to include some of what Breanna really liked. One year we did a Disney princess theme because Breanna loves them. We had people dressed up like the princesses and decorated the games to match,” Muzenberger said. “We’ve had a lot of fun themes like outer space and Dr. Seuss, and people really seem to like them.”
Although the carnival itself was fun for Muzenberger and her friends to plan, the main goal was always to support and help Breanna and her family.
“I love seeing the carnival come together and seeing how many people come and donate, but my favorite part is being able to walk the money we raised to Breanna’s house and see how happy she is,” said Muzenberger. “We know her so well and she’s the sweetest girl. She gives back to other people, brightens people’s day and she never really asks for help. They deserve it and there are a lot of things insurance doesn’t cover, so it helps a lot.”
Muzenberger and her friends organized seven carnivals and raised about $8,000 for the Strange family and have shared their dedication to giving with their community.
“I feel like in our generation, people just don’t think of going out of their way. I think they think, ‘if I have what I need to get by, that is all I need.’ But some people just need extra help and deserve extra help. It’s not by choice so I am happy to give,” Muzenberger said. “I like to be involved and I just think it is nice to give back as much as you can.”