In winter 2018, Lafayette High
students Chloe Baker, Grace Kirtley and Shannon Worley started off fundraising for Dressember – an organization that seeks to end human trafficking – with a goal of earning $1,000. They ended up at $3,111.49.
This winter, with a larger group of fundraisers and a new name – STL Spark
– the seniors set their sights at around $6,500, the approximate cost to fund one rescue mission. They hit that mark by the end of December, with a month still to go in their drive.
The final total: $14,639.32
"I never thought I would raise this much money in my lifetime, let alone two years," Kirtley said. "If you want to make a difference and participate in some advocacy, there shouldn't be anything that's stopping you. The privilege we get in this community, at this school, is unmatched. It's been an honor to see the privilege play out in helping people and seeing the money going places and changing lives."
Dressember encourages its advocates to wear a dress, or a shirt and tie, for the month of December to raise awareness of human trafficking and funds to help combat it. This past year, STL Spark organized a "50-state fundraiser" in which its members sought at least a $10 donation from at least one person in each state.
The event ran for one weekend in December and netted more than $2,500 on its own. One of Worley's neighbors pledged that, if she and STL Spark hit the $6,500 goal, he would match it.
They did, and he did.
"It's been a really cool opportunity to bring our community's eyes to the subject," Worley said. "Our community is so generous and willing to help. We spoke at concerts, had restaurant nights, posted things all over. We had people reach out every step of the way asking how they could help and get involved. It was really cool to see that, when we put it out there, people really responded."
As group co-founders, Baker, Kirtley and Worley have involved themselves in every aspect of the organization. Baker, for example, has helped the group enjoy a vibrant social media following, Kirtley has done speaking engagements at community organizations, and Worley has been instrumental in organizing events.
They hope that STL Spark lives on at Lafayette once they graduate. They also plan to keep advocating for Dressember on their college campuses: Baker and Worley at the University of Missouri and Kirtley at Vanderbilt University.
"It was realizing how simple it can be to help people and raise awareness," Baker said. "It's just wearing a dress. It's just posting something on social media. It's just emailing a restaurant to see if they would host us. It's a lot simpler than what I thought it would be. It doesn't have to be this giant gesture that takes 12 years to plan. It's been an honor to be one of the people who has been able to bring that advocacy out."