Danielle Burns is honored
Nice ending for a Cinderella story
BY GINNY RAUE
WEST MILFORD — Sometimes the work of community volunteers goes unnoticed, yet they often keep plugging away, doing what they do, not for the accolades but for the good of the cause. But sometimes they are recognized, and in this case it was West Milford High School Interact Club president and Cinderella Project chairperson, Danielle Burns, who was honored.
The Jefferson Awards have been recognizing and inspiring change-makers and community volunteers for over 40 years. Founded by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft Jr. and Sam Beard, the organization has acknowledged tens of thousands of community volunteers across the nation for their efforts.
On June 9, Burns attended the awards ceremony, held at the Newark Museum, and her work on the recent Cinderella Project was brought to light.
As chairperson of the Cinderella Project, Burns, along with about 20 Rotary-backed Interact Club members, collected gently used gowns and dresses and sold them at deep discounts at a sale held at Hillcrest in February. The profits went toward easing the financial strain of prom night expenses for students who needed a little help to get to their big dance. The unsold dresses were donated to a central Cinderella Project facility and were given to students in need.
Burns, 18, was born in China and adopted when she was a year old by Kathleen and David Burns. She went through the West Milford school system and is a 2014 West Milford High School graduate. Soon she will be heading off to Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania to start a six-year doctorate program in physical therapy.
She’s been a happy and typical teenager; playing clarinet in the school band, hanging out with friends and playing soccer. She’s been an Interact Club member for five years.
When the idea of the Cinderella Project came up she took charge, and with the help of the other Interact students, lined up collection sites, found a sale location and went to work on advertising the event.
With the guidance of Interact advisors Allison Scully and Melissa Welch, the sale raised about $1,000, which was discreetly funneled to students needing help with prom expenses.
“It was definitely a successful event for our first year. The support of the community was great," said Danielle. "The Cinderella Project team put their all into it and we saw the results. Even when it seemed it wouldn’t happen, we didn’t give up.”
Encouraged to apply for the award by one of her teachers, Danielle wound up placing within the top five honorees in New Jersey for the youth award. She was thrilled, she said, to be at the ceremony with so many volunteers.
“It was definitely a great honor to be in that room with people who contribute time to their communities. There were so many adults to look up to.”
She’s very grateful to the Interact Club for making her last year at the high school so special and hopes the Cinderella Project will have a long shelf life.
“The motto of the club is ‘Service Above Self’ and I’ve taken that as a mindset. There are so many people who need help,” she said.
As she prepares to head off to a new life adventure, Burns can pack away, along with her dorm room necessities, the good feeling inside that volunteers get from being of service to others.
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