It’s one thing to say you’re going to do something, it’s another to actually do it. That’s the lesson Ella Burnside took from her English class at Christian Academy and one she’s become an example of through her work with Taking on Goliath, a fundraiser for the Joyful Heart Foundation. We sat down with the 17-year-old senior to learn about her fundraiser – which will be held Thursday, Oct. 20, at The Olmsted – and how she became an advocate to stop sexual assault and domestic violence at only 15 years of age.
Why did you start this fundraiser?
Two years ago, in my English class, we had to write a paper about an issue in our community, city, state, world that we thought people should pay attention to. We had to do research, find solutions and write about it. Then (the teacher) said, “Do it,” and that was the other half of the assignment. It hit me because he was saying, it doesn’t matter what you say if you’re not going to step up and do something about it. That was kind of the first time I thought about the fact that I could do something even at 15.
Why did you choose to focus on sexual assault?
It has never been a part of my life personally, but I started watching “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” when I was 14. The first time I watched it, I was blown away because I didn’t know the statistics for sexual assault and domestic violence were so horrific in our culture. I wrote my paper about it and through that process I found out the lead actress of the show, Mariska Hargitay, had started the Joyful Heart Foundation.
Where did the name of your fundraiser, Taking on Goliath, come from?
We had hired Danny Flannigan (for the fundraiser) and I found out he had this song called “Goliath.” The story of David and Goliath became the perfect metaphor for what we were trying to do and being a 15-year-old then, and now at 17, taking on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault when no one expected me to even take note of them.
Have you had the chance to meet Mariska Hargitay?
I actually met her last spring. Joyful Heart invited me to their annual gala in New York City last May. I was introduced to Mariska and we talked for a few minutes. She’s really kind and incredibly generous.
What will this year’s fundraiser include?
We’ll have a dinner, silent auction, a program and video by Joyful Heart. We’re inviting our guests to sign letters to our president, vice president and attorney general telling our government officials that we want them to pay attention to the rape kit backlog. Joyful Heart announced this movement “End the Backlog.” There are over 200,000 sexual assault kits backlogged in the U.S. Joyful Heart has been all over Capitol Hill about this. There will also be other things going on to show people some really simple ways you can make a difference in a continual way.
We partnered with Cellar Door Chocolates. We are designing a chocolate box centered around the fundrasier. The box is about $20 and $10 of each box will go directly to Joyful Heart. It’ll be available until May and become a seasonal item.
As far as your class assignment, I’m assuming you got an A?
It’s funny, the actual assignment ended up getting canceled because we had snow days and we were really behind. It was when we had the ice storm and the windstorm and lost two days each time. That project ended up falling off the wagon, and I ended up being the only kid in class who stayed determined to do the project. I would joke with my teacher every day, “You’re going to give me extra credit right?” and he actually did end up giving me extra credit.
What’s your ultimate goal with the fundraiser?
I really want to come up with some self-sustaining ways to continue this and not just have it be a one-time deal because if we’re really going to make a change in our community and get people involved, its not going to happen on one night. The only way to eliminate the darkness that is sexual assault is to shine a light on it.
For information on the Taking on Goliath fundraiser, visit “Taking on Goliath” on Facebook. For information on the Joyful Heart Foundation, visit www.joyfulheartfoundation.org.
The Taking on Goliath fundraiser will be held from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 20, at The Olmsted.
Category: The Spotlight
About the Author (Author Profile)
Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).