Helping to Meet Needs in Caroline County
What began as a way to raise funds for the North Caroline High School cross country team has grown into a much larger non-profit charitable organization that offers financial assistance and fills other needs for hundreds of families and individuals in Caroline County.
Christened “Sweet Caroline,” the organization was begun by Ben Cahall to raise money by selling bumper stickers to support the school’s cross country team and raised $3,000.
From there, bumper stickers have been replaced by an event-a-month fundraising plan that has grown to be even more than Cahall could have imagined, even more than what he had hoped would be a way he could continue the spirit of community service instilled in him by his mother and grandmother.
Growing up, Cahall was raised by his mother and grandmother, and he was well aware of their generous nature, a way of life that saw them give to so many in the community, often times before keeping what they needed for themselves.
Inspired by their giving spirit, Cahall had always wanted to do something noticeable to make a difference for women just like them — women who give all they have to their families and communities, but who are in need themselves.
“I had always donated to Toys for Tots and stuff like that, but I wanted to do something bigger than that. I missed the face-to-face connection,” he added.
Knowing not everyone had people who could support them, Cahall thought Sweet Caroline might be a way he could help some families.
“The sales of bumper stickers started it, now we’ve progressed to having raffles, 5Ks, monthly events and many other ways of collecting money that in turn is used to aid the needy in the county,” said Cahall. “Now it is a movement of like-minded seeking to help their less fortunate neighbor.”
Sweet Caroline’s fundraisers aren’t limited to just one area, but rather are varied to help assist many different segments of the county’s needy in many different ways.
For instance, in the coming months Sweet Caroline events include a Quarter Auction on August 26 at the Denton fire hall to benefit a back-to-school supply drive; an open-to-the-public community day on September 23 at the Goldsboro Fire house held in honor of his late mother, Diane Cahall-Alior, that includes a 5K race, events for the kids and many vendors; a gun raffle during the month of November which will give away 31 guns in 30 days and raise money for the organization’s Caroline Kids Christmas Party; a Halloween Ball on October 22 meant to raise enough money to fund two annual scholarships, one at North Caroline and another at Colonel Richardson High School; and a Purse Bingo Day on November 19. Each of the last two events will be held at the Denton /Fire Hall.
Prices for paddles for the 7 p.m. Quarter Auction are $10 for the first paddle and $3 for each additional paddle. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Gun raffle chances are $30 each. Each day’s winner will be determined by the winning number for that evening’s Pick 3 lottery number.
Scholarships will be awarded to two Class of 2018 high school students and the amount will be determined by how much is donated by the public. Winners will be selected through an essay contest, the subject of which is undetermined at this time. Cahall would like to raise enough from donations to have enough funds to carry over for scholarships next year as well.
Sweet Caroline volunteers and board members will also staff booths at the upcoming Caroline-Dorchester County Fair and at Summerfest in Denton.
Money raised that does not go for a particular cause goes to the group’s Christmas Fund, which helps buy toys, food and other items needed by “less fortunate” families throughout the county. Cahall said he would like to raise $10,000 for the Christmas Fund.
“Christmas was my mother’s favorite holiday. She always found a way to help out others at Christmas,” said Cahall. “I would really like to make it as special as possible for as many needy families and children as we can.”
Cahall said the group’s board of directors helps to determine what events to hold and how the money raised is to be used, adding that as knowledge of Sweet Caroline has increased, so have requests for support for the needy.
“What money that isn’t raised for a specific cause will go to fund other services and needs we offer to the community. Our Christmas fund is our largest project for the year, however,” said Cahall, who said the $800 he raised from one weekend in his job as an Uber driver on the Western Shore was enough to assist 12 families.
The group has helped the Caroline community accomplish far greater things as well.
“We just finished a raffle that raised just over $7,100 to help pay the medical expenses for two local boys. One had Batten’s Disease and the other had leukemia,” said Cahall.
Another recent project of Sweet Caroline provided 130 hygiene care bags to the homeless in Caroline County, including 70 bags that went to the His Hope Haven homeless ministry in Denton. Another recent fundraiser paid to provide 400 Easter Eggs filled with candy for Easter egg hunts for homeless and disadvantaged youth throughout the county.
Cahall said although the Sweet Caroline organization offers ways for people to contribute, its success is based on the generosity and caring of county residents.
“I’m not surprised at all the support we have received. Caroline County residents are very caring, compassionate people. They just need an outlet for that caring. That is what our organization is for, to give them the opportunity to give to other residents in the county who might not be as fortunate as they are, or who are down in their luck and need a helping hand,” Cahall said.
Cahall said his efforts have really been aided by social media, noting that a recent video that ran on the group’s Facebook page had 5,100 hits and 15,700 viewings.
“That shows that people are seeking us out on social media. That’s a good thing,” he added.
Cahall is thankful to all those who have supported Sweet Caroline events because he feels they have enabled him to carry on the legacy of his mother and grandmother.
“I feel very fortunate. And I feel blessed beyond what I need,” Cahall said. “Why not share a little bit of that?
“The reaction we’ve received always puts a smile on my face,” he added. “It’s given me the opportunity to change the world for needy kids … even if it’s just one a day. I am blessed to have this opportunity to give back.
Anyone wishing to learn more about Sweet Caroline, can go to the group’s website at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Cahall at 410-714-2001.