MADISON (WKOW) -- A fundraiser started by three high schoolers in the Madison area has brought in more than 17,000 hygiene products that they have donated to women and families in need.
Madison West sophomores Crystal Ni, Brenna Butler, and Charlotte Thomas came up with the idea to host a local 'Her Drive' in December. They put the fundraiser into action starting in January.
"We thought that it would just be a really fun opportunity," said Ni. "None of us have ever hosted a drive or done anything like this. So it was just super new, and we wanted to help people."
The Chicago-based non-profit, Her Drive, was founded last June as a way to support people who lack access to basic hygiene necessities. The organization launched a "Host Your Own Drive" program in October as a way to encourage volunteers to host drives in their own communities.
The teens took advantage of that program to host a fundraiser in the Madison area. Their initial goal was to help teens their age, but the interest in donating grew. In the end, more than 200 people from all age groups donated nearly 10,000 period products, more than 450 bras, and several thousand general hygiene products.
"We first thought 'Maybe we'll get like, 30 people and then we'll be happy with it,'" said Thomas. "Then we were seeing, 'Oh my gosh, we have more than 15,000 items, this is crazy...' everything was definitely a challenge we had to deal with but it was so worth it."
According to a Facebook post by Her Drive, the Madison fundraiser had one of the highest fundraising totals in the history of the organization.
The teens split the donations between several organizations, including Dane County Foster Homes, YWCA Madison, Feeding the Youth, and the Madison school district.
Jazzman Brown, who runs Feeding the Youth, said they were more than grateful for the donation.
"I was shocked at the amount of stuff they dropped off," she said. "It's going to be a huge help for the people we help."
Feeding the Youth helps supply emergency shelters and some hotels in the Madison area. Brown says that much of the products that the young women donated, which included tampons, pads, soap, and bras, will be part of the personal hygiene products given away to families in need at a community give back event they are hosting on March 6 at the East Madison Community Center.
Ni, Butler, and Thomas say they are extremely grateful to such a giving community for providing so many essential items for women and families in need.
Butler says she hopes the desire to give doesn't stop with their fundraiser.
"I think that's a big part that lots of people should learn from this experience," she said. "Even though our drive has ended, it really should encourage people to still get out there and either volunteer or look in their houses and find other things to donate."
The teens say they hope to do something similar in the future, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on.