Pitch 10's Winner For Every Little Handprint Plans to Expand in Second Year
Olivia Larson stood, surrounded by hundreds of people, waiting on bated breath, hoping to hear four simple words.
“For Every Little Handprint.”
Amid the roar of applause, Olivia walked to the stage to claim First Place at Next Generation United’s annual Pitch 10 event, and the $10,000 that came with it. It’s hard to think to think that just over a year ago, Olivia was just a 16 year-old high school student learning about the pressing needs of families in Erie County for the first time.
We sat down with Olivia after Pitch 10 to learn more about her journey, For Every Little Handprint, and what her plans are for the $10,000 prize.
UWBEC: Olivia, thanks for taking some time to chat with us today. To get started, tell us how For Every Little Handprint got started.
OL: Of course! So in my sophomore year Spanish class at Mount Mercy, we were learning about poverty in Buffalo and I did not realize it was such a huge issue in our community. I go to school in South Buffalo, so I really didn’t learn about a lot of issues in our community until I started going to school. Obviously I knew that poverty was a problem faced by a lot of people but I wasn’t really aware of how close it was and how real it is for so many people. Mount Mercy really has an emphasis on service, so I had learned about a lot of different social justice issues by going to school there and after that class I went home and I did some more research because it was something that really made me think and I found the childhood poverty rate in the area and it was scary and it’s going in the wrong direction. So after doing that research I realized I was in a position where I could do something to help. So I decided to do a supply drive at my church for Gerard Place and Family Promise of WNY and I collected baby care items and I got a really positive response. We gathered a couple hundred items and after the fact, I was like Ok this is awesome, but I don’t just want this to be a one-time thing. I want this to not just be charity but justice, something that’s long-term.
UWBEC: So that’s what For Every Little Handprint is doing?
OL: Yes. So we have four main focuses; Inspiring creativity, Promoting literacy, Providing school supplies, and Providing mentorship. Our main focus for this year was providing school supplies. It’s really giving a child the tools they need to have an impact on their education. As a student myself I know how important it is to have exactly what you need to succeed. Our program this year served 30 students at twelve different schools, grades pre-k through 11th grade. All of the children came from families with an annual household income of less than $30,000. What made our program unique was that we provided each student with an L.L. Bean backpack in their favorite color. We filled that backpack with supplies from their individual supply list. We received 225 applications from 25 different schools, so it really shows that the program we’re offering is needed in the community and that need isn’t being met.
UWBEC: So on to Pitch 10; what was going through your head when they were waiting to announce the winner?
OL: I was very anxious to find out who the winner was. The suspense builds up, especially when you announce it third to first. I was excited but it was a nervous excitement.
UWBEC: What went through your head when they announced your organization as the big winner?
OL: I think I was just overwhelmed with excitement and I was very happy, it was a once in a lifetime moment. I had a huge smile on my face. I wasn’t wrote sure what do with myself I was just so excited. Especially for someone who is so young in this industry, it was reaffirming to have everyone there believe in what I’m doing.
UWBEC: Do you have immediate plans for your prize money?
OL: Yes. We’re going to do two things. First, we’re going to get an office space. We actually had a couple of people reach out to us about space at the event, which was really great. The big thing we’re going to be using the funding for is expanding out mentorship program. This year it’s going to serve ten students at West Buffalo Charter School in the eighth grade and by the third year of the program, I want to expand it to serve thirty students. So we’re hoping to expand and have it in another school as well.
UWBEC: What advice would you give to future Pitch 10 presenters?
OL: My advice would be to devise a pitch that really shows just how passionate they are about the organization because people not only like the logistics of what your pitch is, they want something to connect to and they want to be as excited about the organizations as you are.
To learn more about the work Olivia is doing, check out ForEveryLittleHandprint.org.