Hike for Habitat

Walk will be first event on Matthews’ greenway

by Kara Lopp

James McLelland

Four Mile Creek Greenway in Matthews will see its first event May 26 with Habi-thon, a walk to raise money for the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity of Matthews. And it’s being entirely planned by a 12-year-old.

James McLelland, a seventh-grader at Mint Hill Middle School, hatched the idea himself after tutoring younger students from Matthews’ Habitat communities at his church, Matthews United Methodist. The students, he said, were telling of hardships they faced before Habitat housing, even stories of a parent in jail.

McLelland, who’s a member of Boy Scout Troop 140, said he had to do something.

“It was disturbing to hear that. They deserve so much better,” he said.
Habitat Matthews staff are overwhelmed by his efforts.

“We are just so touched and excited about his efforts for the Habi-thon,” Melanie Lewis, client services coordinator, said. “This was all his idea. There was very little that I had to ask that he hadn’t though of already. I really cannot have words enough to show how appreciative we really are. I just feel blessed that he was so moved to do this and take the time. It just really shows that one person can make a difference, regardless of age.”

The road to the Habi-thon fundraiser actually began in the car talking to his dad, Brad, on their way home from church after one of these tutoring sessions.

“I was telling my dad about how much we have and how fortunate we are,” he said. “I felt like it was my time to give back to the community. I felt connected to these kids.”

With the blessing of Habitat and town staff, the Habi-thon will run from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 26. Walkers will raise money ahead of time and bring all donations to the event when they register, beginning at 9 a.m. He’s hoping for at least 500 walkers, raising at least $20 each.

Created in 1989, Habitat for Humanity of Matthews has built more than 90 houses in Matthews. The cost to build one home is about $70,000.

And McLelland has already committed to making Habi-thon an annual event.
“I just want this to support many families,” he said. “If I’m going to college and it’s still going on, maybe a seventh grader (at Matthews United Methodist) will take it over.”

McLelland hopes the event will inspire others – maybe even adults – to get involved or come up with a fundraiser of their own.

“I want people to think, ‘If this is what a 12-year-old can do, imagine what we can do?’” he said.

Want to help?

To walk in the Habi-thon to raise money for Habitat for Humanity of Matthews, visit www.habitatmatthews.org to download a fundraising form. Bring the form and donations to the event the day of the walk. Parking for the greenway is at the Matthews Community Center, 100 E. McDowell St.

If you can’t participate but still want to donate, mail checks, payable to Habitat for Humanity of Matthews, to 136 E. Charles St., Matthews. Write “Habi-thon” in the note.

For more information, call 704-847-4266.

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