Jesse gets joy from giving
By HELEN JACK firstname.lastname@example.org JESSE SOUTER is only 11 years old and already the Lismore boy has an enviable reputation for raising thousands of dollars for charities.
And for most of his life he has done it anonymously. But now his fundraising efforts have resulted in his nomination for a Lismore Australia Day award.
From the age of four, Jesse collected coins he found on the ground or redeemed discarded scratchy tickets to buy food for the dogs and cats cared for by the Lismore-based Animal Rights and Rescue Group.
When he turned nine his charity campaign stepped up a gear after a major personal setback. He contracted encephalomyelitis and was not expected to survive.
Doctors at Brisbane's Mater Hospital put him into a coma to save his life. When he came out of it, he suffered a stroke.
Filled with awe for the doctors and nurses who cared for him, Jesse wanted to repay their kindness so he did what came naturally to him raising money.
So far this year Jesse and his mum, Kim, have raised $12,000 for the hospital by selling its merchandise (toy dogs, key rings and pens) and receiving donations.
For being a champion fundraiser, the hospital rewards Jesse with cash prizes, which he then passes on anonymously to the Animal Rights and Rescue Group.
Volunteer Paul Slessor said the group only recently learned the donations of food and money was from Jesse.
"He is a role model for children and any adult would do well to do what he has done," he said. "It's been a substantial contribution over the past seven years which has helped pay for vaccinations and micro-chipping for the animals."
Jesse said he liked to think the money was helping kids and animals. Next year he has even bigger plans.
"For Jesse the sky is the limit. We just try and help his dreams come true and even if we don't quite get there he is happy," mum Kim said.
"With the money I have also sponsored an orangutan called Roy," Jesse said.
Jesse said he loved animals, but could not be a vet because he didn't like needles.