- Associated Press - Saturday, January 25, 2014

MAHTOMEDI, Minn. (AP) - No one can explain what drives Amanda Sexson.

The Mahtomedi 18-year-old has been a human fundraising machine for 12 years.

“I have passion wired into me,” said Sexson, which doesn’t entirely explain how she has been able to raise about $70,000 in more than 30 fundraisers.

Her group, Hearts4Charity, has made an impact unheard-of in teen charity groups, with 40 members, a website, nonprofit status, a board of directors and even a program to award grants to other charity-minded teens.

Sexson isn’t in a rut, doing the same fundraisers for the same causes. Most of the group’s events are creative - such as the upcoming dance-a-thon to raise money to prevent domestic abuse.

“We are definitely unique,” said Maddy Gildersleeve, the group’s outreach leader.

Whatever drives Sexson began Sept. 11, 2001.

That’s when she saw the World Trade Center towers collapse on TV. Overwhelmed, she marched out onto her driveway and started selling suckers to raise money for the victims.

She was 5 years old.

The outburst of charity wasn’t a passing childhood fancy. Sexson branched out, selling lemonade with neighborhood friends. “Then it developed into more than a lemonade stand,” she told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1mqqran). “It was birdhouses, brownies, Kool-Aid, anything we could think of.”

Her gang of juvenile philanthropists moved from one fundraiser to the next. They bagged groceries for tips. They washed cars. They sold hand-knit scarves for a neighbor family - the mom had Lou Gehrig’s disease, and the dad had bone cancer.

For four years, they filled shoeboxes with gifts for Operation Christmas Child, which sends supplies to needy children overseas.

She worked for causes related to Haiti for years, and traveled there with her mother after the 2010 earthquake.

“It changed my perspective on the world,” Sexson said. “I got some insight into suffering, and the reality that people live in.”

The group started fundraisers for anyone who needed help. It sponsored a 5K run in May to help a local family who was scammed when they tried to adopt a child from Haiti.

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