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Nine-year-old raises thousands for charity with Bernie Sanders sculpture

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With a natural altruistic tendency, third-grader Julianna Tand only had a goal of raising roughly $500 through her charitable project. What she ended up raising, however, far surpassed her expectations — more than $3,000, which benefitted those housed in a nearby Ronald McDonald House.

After President Joseph Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, an image of Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders — sitting on a fold-out chair on the steps of Capitol Hill, bundled up with a mask and mittens — went viral, and Julianna, a Merrick native, took notice. After sculpting a clay figure of Sanders, she decided to put it up for a charitable auction.

The raffle lasted for 10 days, with people submitting $20 chances to win the roughly three-inch figure. In the end, Julianna raised $3,100.

“I saw that he was so popular and since I wanted to raise money, I decided I’d make him,” Julianna said.

The donation went towards the Ronald McDonald House Charities of New York Metro and will help feed the 35 families currently living there. On April 5, Julianna presented the donation to Ronald McDonald House CEO Matthew Campo in the form of a giant check.

It isn’t the first time Julianna, an Old Mill Road Elementary School student, helped the Ronald McDonald House. She has raised money through other clay projects, including $700 in 2020, which funded the purchase of 200 toys for kids in the facility.

Julianna hand-picked the toys for the kids at a nearby Five Below.

“We used to bake there, and I saw what a great place it was to help kids,” Julianna said of the Ronald McDonald House. “So, since I love being creative, I just wanted to raise money for them to buy toys.”

The idea to craft clay sculptures started when she was 6. Julianna wanted to make her grandparents a special gift for their anniversary — “Something more than a picture,” she said.

She decided to make them clay figures representing all members of the family, housed within a framed “shadow box.” Julianna’s grandparents appear fully dressed for their wedding, which had occurred 40 years prior.

The art still hangs in her grandparent’s home.

“As a mom and as a teacher, I’m super proud of the lessons she’s learned,” Julianna’s mother Jennifer said. “One simple, small act of kindness can snowball and make a big impact and a difference.”

“I feel really proud of myself because I know that I’m helping kids and their families,” Julianna said. “I want to make them smile when they’re in the hospital.”