Oprah Winfrey helps young fundraiser raise money for cancer research

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By JANET LUNDQUIST Sun-Times News Group

It's been said anything Oprah touches turns to gold.

A 7-year-old from Plainfield is hoping Winfrey will have the same effect on her fundraising project.

Hannah Durante is raising money for A Walk in the Park, an event held by Six Flags and Cure Kids Cancer at parks across the country.

The event raises money for pediatric cancer research.

Hannah was born with one kidney, which necessitates regular checkups at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said her mother Amy Durante.

Hannah is doing fine. But some other children they met at the hospital weren't doing as well, Amy said.

"Every time we'd go, I was in tears. It just breaks my heart to see the other kids," Amy said.

They wracked their brains thinking of ways to help the less-fortunate youngsters. Last year, they discovered A Walk in the Park, and participated at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee.

They decided to do it again this year. Besides the sponsor-gathering e-mail sent to friends and family, Amy decided to send a request to Oprah Winfrey.

She continued calling and e-mailing Oprah, her publicist and other employees of Harpo Productions until Friday, when a member of Oprah's staff called her back.

"He said (Oprah) was inspired. She couldn't believe a 7-year-old was doing this," Amy said. "Persistence totally pays off. It doesn't matter if she's a celebrity. She lives in Chicago. She's aware. I know she does good things."

Hannah's goal was to raise $1,300. Thanks to a financial boost from Oprah Winfrey, who matched the $1,240 Hannah had raised by that point, the total was $2,935.34 as of Wednesday afternoon.

Oprah even posted a message on Hannah's fundraising Web page at my.walkintheparks.org/hannah7: "Hannah, You have inspired everyone to make a difference. Continue!"

Oprah's comment helped draw attention to Hannah's fundraising team, Team Friends, Amy said. There are comments on her Web page from people the Durantes don't even know.

But the Durantes aren't just sitting back, letting Oprah's clout pull in the donations.

They will sell $1 hot dogs at Strack & Van Til, at Route 59 and Caton Farm Road in Joliet, from noon to 5 p.m. Friday.

The store donated the hot dogs, and all the proceeds will go toward Cure Kids Cancer.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Bieganski published on June 18, 2009 9:00 AM.

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