Ashley Birtwell

Brittany & The Teens



My Story

The people of India are so kind and hospitable.

Here's the short version of how these adventures began. Tom travels to India because he designs products for his beautiful house and garden shops in Connecticut, and then he has them made in different parts of the world. Tom met Sujo on the plane ride back from India and they had quite a long chat.

Sujo and his wife were separated during the 9/11 twin towers tragedies.  Sujo's wife was pregnant. When they discovered each other again, they felt it was a true gift and miracle that they were both alive, and Sujo felt moved to show his appreciation by doing something positive to make a difference in his native country India… which was to get involved with the D.F. Blind school. Sujo is also a doctor and he has written a book about his 9/11 experience.

In walks Brittany McCann... one of Tom and Mary Jo's daughters. She hears the story, and decides to take action. What she did was... get her high school in Connecticut, to take the money that they would normally spend on taking a limo to their senior prom, and instead, they took buses to the prom and gave the rest of the money to the blind school which was thousands of dollars. This financial boost, allowed the school to add a whole new floor to house more students! 

Next... in walks Nicholas Lechich, Dakoda Collins....and the Dalton School in Manhattan, New York. Nicholas produced a dance-athon fundraiser at a club in New York City with his school...Dakoda deejayed the event with his musical events company, On Beat entertainment., in Boca Raton Florida. Dakoda lives in Florida... Nicholas goes to the Dalton school.. in Manhattan. These teenagers did this all on there own time, free of charge, to raise money for the children of the blind school. It just happened to be Dakoda's 18th birthday and this is how he chose to spend it… flying up to New York City and working for a great cause. I believe they brought in close to $7,000.00.!!! 

Now let's talk about Ali Shapiro... who took over Brittany's cause at their high school. She has raised so much money with her dance-athons and fundraisers in Connecticut that she has received all sorts of awards, as well as now she has a beautiful plaque, dedicated in her name at the blind school in India.(see slide show and picture gallery). There are many other teenagers that have actually also gone to India to be with the children and also lent their time and energy and financial support to this cause.

The children and staff at the blind school are so appreciative and grateful for us Americans... that every time any of us come over there to be with them, they put on an incredible music and dance show for us. The children know you by your hands, what you  wear on your wrists in jewelry, and your voice. The love and excitement they shower on us with their bountiful affections and hugs, just melts your heart and makes the long journey over there... totally worth it

My eyes fill up with tears thinking of how awe struck I am by these American teens who are taking their time and money to make a difference. Being a teenager in this day and age can be difficult enough, trying to make your way in the world...figuring out what makes you triumph... To think of their conscientiousness, steadfastness and commitment to creating and producing these events to raise these large sums of money to give other kids a chance at life...kids they don't even really know....just makes me very proud of our youth.

We had some other great highlights to our trip. We were lucky enough to experience the Taj Mahal. I started singing "Amazing Grace" inside this incredible wonder of the world, and the local authorities showed their appreciation by escorting me out of the building, but oh what an acoustic heaven  it was for those few moments!  We played with monkeys, elephants and dancing bears and found incredible colours and kind characters at the market place. The people of India are so beautiful and kind hearted and hospitable and yet at the other end of the spectrum is the heartbreak of the beggar children in the streets and the high rate of blindness. You'll see... it's all there in the pictures and slide show. We can send a child to college in India for about $2500.00 in American dollars.  We can build the school a playground for $10.000, and we can buy bunk beds for $500.00, we can buy desks for $100.00 and we can buy Braille books for $50.00...and much more! 

The big reason that there is so much blindness in India is because of lack of proper nourishment and lack of medical attention which all boils down to lack of money. Many children that are found out to be blind are cast out and there chance of survival is slim

to none. The gift of giving of ourselves, our finances, our prayers, whatever it is...like the starfish story says... the giving to one another brings such power and pleasure to the giver and such hope and peace to the receiver. 

A big thank you to you... the purveyor of this website! Thank you for being here with us... for taking the time to take all this in. I hope we have touched your heart and inspired you along your special path of goodness! We are all unique and have our own special contributions to give to our world and our future generations...the children of this world! And, hats off to YOU, Brittany McCann and your fellow teens for making such a big difference in our world! You are all " brave souls" as my mother would say.... THANK YOU! THANK YOU! "Good nite and good luck!"  all the best...Ashley     

If you feel moved to help in any way you can go to the "donations" page of this website!  Thank you!

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Starfish Children’s Fund
877 Stevens Ave. #4312 • Solana Beach California 92075

Ashley at 858.205.8374
mamalushka@gmail.com