It doesn’t matter what age you are to make a difference.
We talked to a 17-year-old Bismarck girl who felt compelled to help children in foster care.
Jasmine Wutzke is a former Miss State Capitol’s Outstanding Teen. Her platform involved working with children in both adoption and foster care. She found an organization, “Together We Rise,” that supports children locally in the Bismarck/Mandan area. She then partnered with “Together We Rise” to raise money to purchase duffel bags that are given to children who are entering foster care.
Q: So what exactly are Sweet Cases?
Many children who enter foster care carry their few belongings in a garbage bag. There is a name for this: Trash Bag Kids. “Together We Rise” is a national nonprofit that works to change that.
“Sweet Cases” are duffel bags filled with a blanket, teddy bear, hygiene kit, and other items that help give kids a sense of dignity and hope. Each bag costs $25 and after we have enough in donations, we order the bags and have a big duffle bag stuffing party! This is my favorite party because people of all ages get together to volunteer. They pick whether they want to make a bag for a boy or girl ages 3-17. Then they get to decorate the bag and “shop,” or choose the items they would like to fill it with. After this, the bags are delivered to Social Services where they are shared with Burleigh and Morton Counties.
Q: What inspired you to get this started?
I have two cousins who were adopted from Guatemala and had nothing before they came to the US. I also got to know a lot of foster families at my church (Charity Lutheran) and had the opportunity to volunteer with their orphan ministry. Getting to hear these kids’ stories made me understand how much they have to overcome.
Q: Now that you no longer hold the title, has this become more of a family thing to help foster kids?
I’ve competed in pageants since I was 5 years old, and had chosen this as my platform when competing for Miss North Dakota’s Outstanding Teen. My family has supported me in everything I do, so Jasmine’s Sweet Cases Campaign has always been a family activity. My grandma, Susie Heid, and aunt, Kayla Wutzke, have helped with taking me to events to speak, organizing fundraisers, and basically anything else I need. My mom, Sargianna, has given up a large part of the garage to store totes filled with donations for the next duffle bag stuffing party and has organized donation drives, and my brother, Jordan, has volunteered with every party we’ve had, unloading boxes and sorting items.
Q: What are you doing to promote this cause?
We recently had a booth at the Family Day Riverwalk where a few of my teammates from Let’s Dance Studio helped kids dress up and “Pose with a Princess.” Little girls and boys had a lot of fun meeting their favorite princesses and we raised $129 — enough for 5 more bags! We are currently looking for more opportunities to get the word out and are about halfway to our current goal.
8: How old are you?
I’m 17 and a rising senior at Legacy High School.
Q: Do you plan on getting into foster care as an adult? What are your future plans for a career?
I would definitely be interested in being a foster parent someday and would love to adopt. My motto is “Adoption is Always an Option.” I hope to go into the medical field, possibly as a surgical assistant. I had to take a year off of working with this nonprofit last year when I had surgery for severe scoliosis. I want to continue to help other people the way my doctors helped me.
Q: What do you hope to achieve with Sweet Cases?
There are about 1,400 foster kids in North Dakota and of those, in Burleigh and Morton county, about 100 kids each year enter foster care with little to no belongings. As long as we can keep raising enough money to supply bags to those children, I will have met my goal.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
We are currently in the fundraising stage and are always looking for help in monetary donations, donations of new hygiene products (nail clippers, lotion, hairbrushes, combs, etc), and small toys. If you know of a business that would like to help, we would love to set something up. We also love having everyone help.
Q: Do you have a Facebook page where people can follow your journey or send a donation?
Yes, you can find us on Facebook under Jasmine’s Sweetcases Campaign with Together We Rise. Checks can be made to “Together We Rise” and mailed to Jasmine Wutzke, 2352 Rolling Drive, Bismarck, ND, 58501. If you would like to make any other type of donation or have any questions, please call (701) 202-1635
Here are some statistics about the campaign:
Grand Total Raised: $13,200
Balance Remaining: $968
Bags decorated and filled: 420