N.S. student’s senior project raises $5,400 for Gloria Gemma Foundation

N.S. student’s senior project raises $5,400 for Gloria Gemma Foundation

North Smithfield High School senior Emily Larson, middle, presents a check for $5,385 to the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation last Friday, at the Gemma Offices in Pawtucket. She raised the money by developing an original bracelet called the “Hope” bracelet. Also pictured are, Maria Gemma, executive director, left, and Carol Donnelly, communications manager for the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Their subject matter ranges from hobbies to potential future careers, and they often have a charitable component.

But few of the North Smithfield High School senior projects to date have been able to accomplish as much to help a local cause as Emily Larson’s “Hope” bracelets.

Larson sold around 500 of the $15 bracelets, classic bangles with unique charms that bring to mind the style of popular Alex and Ani wrist wear. And thanks to a generous neighbor who donated materials and labor in producing the jewelry, nearly 100 percent of the money Larson raised went directly to the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation .

“I think it was very successful in terms of the fundraising,” Larson said of the project.

The bracelets were produced by Paul Mercier, owner of Johnston-based jewelry company of P M Colors, who is also Larson’s neighbor and the coach of her softball team. Dubbed the “Hope” bracelet in reference to Gemma’s well-known motto, the jewelry was designed by Larson with an eye for both practicality and fashion. The copper-based bracelets came in a choice of silver or rose gold plating and held a ribbon charm, a charm that says “hope,” and a pink pearl ball, spray-painted by hand by Mercier.

“He had done a lot of similar bracelets and I wanted to make sure it was easy for him because he donated them,” said Larson. “It was really kind of him to do that.”

“I also wanted to keep it simple enough so everyone would like it, and I wanted to keep it dainty and pretty.”

Rose gold turned out to be the more popular color, and sold out quickly.

But Larson says she chose the project not just for her interest in fashion and the cause, but to enhance her marketing skills – the one area where the project proved a disappointment. The bracelets, it seems, sold themselves.

“I started out thinking I wanted to focus on the marketing aspect, because that’s what I want to do with my career,” she said. “They really didn’t need it. When people saw them and heard that 100 percent went to Gloria Gemma, they were more than willing to buy.”

Larson sold the jewelry at events throughout the year, started a Facebook page to promote the bracelets, and created and handed out flyers. A small portion of the money – roughly $200 – went toward packaging. The remaining $5,385 went to Gloria Gemma, and was dropped off to the organization’s Pawtucket office this week.

The Rhode Island-based nonprofit aims to raise breast cancer awareness, increase breast health education, enhance the quality of life for breast cancer patients, as well as their families and friends, and generate funding for local breast health programs.

Senior projects became a high school graduation requirement in 2014 and have led North Smithfield students to develop lasting relationships with local businesses and organizations. They require that students choose a mentor and perform at least 15 hours of volunteer work, an element Larson did in addition to her jewelry design, marketing and sales work. The 2016 class secretary and captain of her softball team choose Carol Donnelly, communications manager for Gloria Gemma, as her mentor.

She was inspired, in part, by the 2014 senior project completed by her friend, Angela Pasquariello. Pasquariello also sold jewelry, donating 20 percent of proceeds to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

“I was interested in her project because I’m really interested in jewelry and fashion,” said Larson. “I kind of took my own twist on it and it worked out really, really well.”