The volunteers—between ages 8 and 16 at the time—decided to keep up their efforts, forming "The Happens Organization" to help whenever trouble happens.
Since then, they've held fundraisers for friends battling cancer, shown up on the driveways and doorsteps of elderly neighbors after snowstorms, and delivered as many as 100 turkeys at Thanksgiving for the Food bank.
"We have raised funds for the Samaritan Homeless Interim Program, served the families there for picnic lunch days Tuesdays and Thursdays in the summers, as well as cleaned-up their property so they would have a nice place to go to when in need of a meal," Michael Reilly, one of the founding members who is now also the Junior Class President at Hillsborough Hight School, said. "Through the fruition of ideas set forth from Diane Ack-Mitchell and my mom we have been able to become gift givers during holiday time to our soldiers and their children and now are part of Operation Backpack."
The group of friends and siblings also includes Elizabeth Reilly, Courtney Neary, Kate Swetz, Carly Swetz, Morgan Sanguinetti, Michael Sanguinetti, Christopher Reilly, Brian Reilly, Michael Swetz and Alexa Swetz.
To make sure another successful project happens, the group members committed themselves to raising money over the summer for a fall project, with each student committing to donate 10 percent of their earnings over the summer from part-time jobs, summer jobs, odd jobs—anything.
"Some of us worked jobs in restaurants, some babysat, did odd jobs around the house, cut lawns for neighbors or just asked for donations," Michael said.
The group didn't start with a project in mind, but before the summer ended, found one: helping students through the Martin House, a project of the Diocese of Trenton which supports some of the city's poorest residents.
"Things just fell into place," Michael noted. "Our group raised enough money to buy 100 backpacks filled with basic school supplies for the start of the school year."
He said he's learned that anyone can help make a difference anytime bad things happen to others—you don’t necessarily need to look very far or only focus on big projects.
"Small things right here, right now add up just by word of mouth," he said. "We are humbled to be a part of this drive and hope that others out there will form groups and chip away at things they want to change."
That's where the name of the group comes from—their belief that "you can make things Happen."