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On Sunday, April 9, 2017, Madilyn Geidel, then age 12, hosted her first official Hearts for Hope event—the Race for Hope. Months prior, Madi learned that a young family friend, Sully, had been diagnosed with juvenile neuroblastoma. Her desire to help her friend motivated her to create Hearts for Hope, whose mission is to raise money for those in need, while bringing families together for a day of fun. Hearts for Hope doesn’t limit itself to one cause, but rather hosts fundraising events in and around the local Sykesville, Maryland, community to support a variety of charitable entities. All net proceeds are presented directly to the pre-selected charity for that event. Established in December 2016 as a non-profit organization, Hearts for Hope has hosted four events, raising over $15,000 in total.
When Madi hosted her first event in support of her friend Sully, her target was $2,500 to be donated to Team IMPACT, which connects children battling serious or chronic illnesses with college athletic teams, facilitating the formation of lifelong bonds and life-changing outcomes. Sully’s experience with Team IMPACT was amazing; he attended games and practices for Navy football, but more importantly, he was surrounded by a wide network of support. When Race for Hope concluded on April 9, 2017, Hearts for Hope had raised $3,405, nearly enough to sponsor two children for project IMPACT!
As Madi has matured, her vision for Hearts for Hope has grown as well. Reflecting on the last three years, Madi now has the courage to tackle even more difficult topics. “The world is fast-changing,” she paused, “and now I have a broader perspective and can help a lot. I just thought it would be one event in sixth grade, but now I continue to tell myself ‘Oh, just one more.’”
Her most recent event, #Liv4Mat: Celebration of Life and Suicide Awareness, held on Sunday, November 3, 2019, was less a fundraiser and more of an awareness campaign, bringing together hundreds of teenage students to play a game of Celebration Soccer. A teen in Madi’s local community had recently committed suicide, and Madi wanted to use her platform to shed light on the mental health challenges faced by so many. Mat loved soccer, so on his birthday, November 3, 2019, a crowd gathered for #Liv4Mat. Madi quickly realized this event would be one of the most difficult she had ever held. She was afraid she would not be strong enough to step up in front of all Mat’s friends and family and lead them in singing Happy Birthday to Mat to close the ceremony. Somehow she found the courage to walk out on stage, and as she sang and the tears began to fall, she realized it was okay to be vulnerable—it was okay to let everyone see her cry.
As an Oldfields girl, Madi has continued to lead Hearts for Hope. Madi constantly strives to genuinely listen to the families she is helping, taking in what the family has gone through and determining the best support to give, while also authentically relaying that message to the public without revealing too much. She has learned to compose herself, speak with purpose, and believe that even at 15, she has a lot of good ideas and a platform that is powerful. Madi hopes to carry her passions with her to the Naval Academy, where she will be applying. Madi plans to continue living the Oldfields motto: Courage, Humility, and Largeness of Heart.