Teen philanthropist raises $4,000 for Red Cross

A picture may be worth a thousand words but in 15-year-old town native Evan Lee’s case, a picture can help save a life.

In the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, Evan didn’t just feel badly about the tragedy. He put his talent with a camera to work and raised $4,000 for the American Red Cross’s International Disaster Relief Fund through the sale of photographs he’d taken on spring break.

On vacation with his family in Paris in March 2011, Evan watched in horror as the effects of the natural disasters unfolded on the television screen in his hotel room. The images of homeless people and demolished buildings “really moved” him, he explained.


“It felt really devastating just watching,” he said and it only took a day of digesting those images before Evan realized he needed to help.

Although he didn’t have much photography experience at the time, it was a passion Evan was enthusiastically pursuing, he explained. And trying to do something, anything to help, upon his return home from vacation, with the help of his family, Evan developed the idea of selling packaged photo greeting cards — 12 “Paris Scenes” — for $25. Essentially the vacation photos of scenes around Paris that would otherwise have been put up on Facebook and forgotten about helped become a way to help those in dire need of help.

“I wanted to do something to help,” he said. “I didn’t know at the time that my photography would directly translate into a fund-raiser.”

Evan began earning sales by reaching out to family and friends asking for support and quickly received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. From there, he was able to set up a sales booth at his church, where he acquired a major portion of the $4,000 he eventually donated to the Red Cross, he said.

Looking back, Evan said it “feels really fulfilling” to know he was able to help those in need. “It feels good to know I did something about it rather than wondering or longing to do something.”

Although Evan does not yet know whether he’d like to pursue photography or saxophone as a potential career path, he is taking a formal photography class that has already taught him much about the medium, he said.

As for the future, it seems Evan’s philanthropic nature will not diminish.

“I learned how even something that’s really small that you don’t think can impact anything can actually make a huge impact,” he said.

The folks at the Red Cross agree.

The “amazing” part of Evan’s fund raising was that “his contributions and efforts were made after the media attention [to Japan’s natural disasters] waned,” explained Michael De Vulpillieres, communications officer for the greater New York region of the Red Cross, which is headquartered here in Greenwich.

While many people make donations immediately following crises like the one in Japan, Evan “was still thinking about it” months later, he said.

Although it is not unheard of to find young people fund raising for the Red Cross, Mr. De Vulpillieres said it was wonderful to see someone Evan’s age get so involved.

“We can’t thank him enough” for his donation, Mr. De Vulpillieres said. “Thanks to individuals like Evan, we are able to carry out our programs.”

To view Evan’s work, visit evandavidlee.com

For more information on the Red Cross and its programs, visit redcross.org.


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