Teen Celebrates 16th Birthday With a Sweet Fundraiser for MDA

During a celebration on her 16th birthday, Jordan happily displays the fruits of her fundraising effort with Brette Dowson, a fundraising coordinator for MDA.

Turning 16 years old is a pretty big deal, but Jordan George didn’t want that milestone birthday to be all about her. She wanted to give back.

Jordan celebrated her sweet 16 in April by giving a gift to MDA — $1,600 in donations that she had asked for, instead of presents, for her birthday.

“Me and my family always say, ‘We have all we need, we don’t need anything more.’ Given that, we should give back,” the teenager says. “And personally, I chose MDA because MDA gave so much to me when I was young.”

When Jordan was 5 years old, her uncle was diagnosed with ALS.

“He was really cool and he just had the most infectious laugh. I feel like his laugh was the most notable thing I remember about him, because once you heard it, you had to smile or laugh,” she says. “He was a beautiful person. He was so kind.”

His diagnosis and the quick progression of his disease was a scary whirlwind for the little girl. One thing the family could depend on was support from MDA.

“It was in rural Iowa, so there weren’t a whole lot of great resources for treatment necessarily,” Jordan says. “MDA reached out to our family and they basically made my uncle comfortable. We always had the most up-to-date technology, we had support, we had a community. It was wonderful and I’m really thankful for that.”

Her uncle died just a year after he was diagnosed, but Jordan’s memories of his love and kindness stayed with her over the last decade. So, when Jordan started talking with her mom about giving back for her birthday instead of getting, MDA was a natural fit.

“Then we had a thought of $1,600 for my sweet 16 and it just kind of caught on,” she says laughing.

They reached out to family and friends in letters and on Facebook, asking people to donate $16 dollars to celebrate Jordan’s birthday. If they couldn’t donate, Jordan asked them to spread the word.

In addition to her involvement in other philanthropic ventures, Jordan also represents the state of Iowa in the Miss National Teenager pageant, which is organized by America’s National Teenager Scholarship Organization, a group that encourages teenage women to become leaders in their communities. Jordan incorporated those connections into her fundraising too, promoting the cause on her queen page and asking her sister queens to contribute.

By the time Jordan’s birthday rolled around — on April 29 — she had raised $1,224. During a small celebration, during which she wore her queen sash and tiara, Jordan handed the checks and cash over to a representative from MDA. Jordan was a little disappointed she hadn’t hit $1,600 by her birthday, but she certainly didn’t expect what happened next.

The local newspaper got wind of her super sweet ‘Sweet 16’ fundraiser and did a story. Next thing Jordan knew, someone who had read the article donated the remaining $376.

“I was so shocked,” she says. “Oh my gosh, it was so crazy. It was just like, ‘Wait, really?'”

Jordan says the whole experience was definitely better than presents and birthday cake. She was happy to give back to MDA on her special day, because the organization holds a special place in her heart.

“Through my childhood and my experience with it, MDA means hope, community and support,” Jordan says. “But really primarily hope, because it assures us that there are others out there in your position and there are others out there who are looking for a cure and there are others out there who are ready to go to bat for you.”

As Jordan knows, fundraising ideas come in all shapes and sizes. MDA believes your idea is the best idea – that’s why we created an easy-to-use platform for you to raise money for people in your community and across the country fighting life-threatening diseases such as ALS. You can fundraise for MDA like Jordan by creating your own fundraising campaign at Your Way for MDA.