At only seven years old, Emma Kate Worley has raised well over $20,000 for cancer research. She is quick to say that she hopes some day people won't have to die of cancer, and so she continually works for a cure.
Emma Kate's parents, Ben and Belinda Worley of Dexter, have been heavily involved in the Stoddard County Relay for Life, the largest area fundraising event to benefit the American Cancer Society, since its inception nine years ago. Emma Kate has always known the purpose of Relay for Life. The work of the ACS hit the Worley family hard in September 2009 when Emma's beloved aunt, Marilyn Williams, lost her battle with melanoma after a long and valiant battle with the disease. The following year the Auntie M Project was born.
"It's amazing the difference that one little girl can make," says Belinda Worley. "Emma Kate works on this project year round. She knows that the money she raises will go toward finding a cure for cancer, and she's really proud to be a part of that."
Emma Kate is a part of that in a big way. In 2009, she raised $1,738 through her initial Auntie M Project. Emma Kate loves to paint. She put her painting skills to work in 2009 painting 8 x 10 canvases. Her abstract paintings were framed and on the back of each was a message about the Auntie M Project, telling of the life of Marilyn Williams and that Emma Kate paints for a cure.
The art pieces sold for $20 each. Larger canvases sold for more. One of Emma Kate's paintings on a larger scale hangs in the former office of her Aunt Marilyn in Jefferson City, where Williams served for a time as director of Professional Registration for the State of Missouri. The little blonde girl with a paintbrush became a household name in Stoddard County.
Each year, Emma Kate has introduced a new twist to the Auntie M Project, although she continues to also paint canvases. She has sponsored a different painting or craft project each year, and last year alone she raised $7,665.
Bootheel Pediatric Therapy is Belinda Worley's workplace, but on one Saturday before Relay, it is transformed into a studio where youngsters come from across the county to take part in Emma Kate's project. They have painted canvases for a fee. They have fashioned jewelry boxes and other crafts, all for a worthy cause.
This year's Auntie M Project will take place this Saturday, March 23. Between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., children are invited to gather at Bootheel Pediatric on the west side of the Chamber of Commerce offices on Market Street to paint either a ceramic vase or a wooden picture frame. The frames, vases and paint will be furnished. The $20 fee will be placed toward Relay for Life.
"They'll make great one-of-a-kind Mother's Day gifts," Belinda notes, "and we'll have plenty of refreshments on hand."
Through her ongoing painting efforts over the past year, memorial donations and various individual contributions, Emma Kate has already raised over $6,000 that will go toward the 2013 Relay for Life event which will take place on Friday, May 3 and go into the early morning hours of Saturday.
"Emma Kate is truly committed to this project," says her mother. "We're very proud of her efforts. She really has a commitment to finding a cure for cancer, and understands the difference that she is making."
To pre-register or order a painting from Auntie M Project 2013, call Belinda Worley at 573-421-1100.