Friends and ET Booth Middle School students Ella Atkinson and Olivia Jackson worked together throughout the month of September to help raise over $400 for the local therapy organization BEATS via a read-a-thon.

Atkinson and Jackson are both ambassadors of SmileUp!, which is a Woodstock organization that focuses on kids helping other kids in need. The read-a-thon, which was spearheaded by both Atkinson and Jackson, served as a fundraising campaign for BEATS, which is a therapy company that specializes in the use of hippotherapy and aquatic therapy as primary tools of treating children and adults with disabilities.

“This summer, my best friend Via (Olivia) and I decided to start a book club, with the first book we read in our book club being ‘Out of my Mind,’ a book about Melody,” Atkinson said. “It showed her journey through the struggles of living with a physical handicap. After we read this book, Via and I were inspired to help people with physical handicaps, like Melody. When we found BEATS, we knew it was perfect because they help disabled kids through the use of horse therapy. When we learned that SmileUp! allows kids to create fundraisers, Via and I knew we had to do it. SmileUp! was the perfect organization to help us because they let kids like us make fundraisers for places like BEATS, with us leading the way.”

Jackson added that her love for horses, combined with her love for reading, led her to begin the Book Worms read-a-thon fundraiser with Atkinson. She said that they both also love horses, which is what led them to BEATS, with the mission of raising money for the non-profit organization.

Executive Director Tonya Riddick of SmileUp! said the duo encouraged their donors to make a donation for each book the two would read during the month. The girls ended up raising $550, of which $412.50 was recently presented to BEATS, Inc. The donation will provide for a month of therapy for four families. Riddick added that Jackson also volunteered every Saturday in September at BEATS and was named SmileUp!’s September Volunteer Of The Month. Riddick added that the fundraiser was done safely, through online means. The duo created an instagram page that highlighted the books they read, as well as a fundraising site.

“Via and I are thrilled with the results of this event,” Atkinson said. “Together, we read 16 books and almost doubled our original fundraising goal. We are so thankful for this opportunity from SmileUp! and are so glad we could help our community in this way.”

Jackson added that she is proud that the money they raised will go towards two great organizations.

“It gives me hope for the future of America that these young ladies took this initiative and didn’t stop at their goal by raising it and doing even more that what they initially wanted to,” BEATS owner Bethany Nugent said. “It is very impressive and we are truly grateful.”

Their fundraising site can be found at www.mightycause.com/story/Bookwormsreadathon. For more information on SmileUp!, visit www.smileupfoundation.org.

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Ethan is a reporter covering the cities of Holly Springs & Canton. He also covers city governments and lifestyle. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University.

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