Cedar Crest High School senior Sasha Carpenter explains the inspiration behind Veronika's Prom, a fundraising event to bring a Ukrainian orphan to the United States. Carpenter is the daughter of Brian and Stephanie Carpenter of Ting Ministries. (Adam Franz — Lebanon Daily News)
Cedar Crest student Sasha Carpenter aims to make prom count
Fundraising event to help Ukrainian orphan come to the U.S.
In fact, she is finishing her senior year with an exclamation point.
Carpenter is the adopted daughter of Brian and Stephanie Carpenter of Ting Ministries. She was adopted by the South Lebanon Township couple at 17 months old, and now at 17 years old, she is paying her gratitude forward.
Carpenter and her friend, Jules Eichorst, are raising money to bring their friend, Veronika, out of a Ukrainian orphanage and into the Eichorst household.
"We want to raise awareness for teenage orphans in Ukraine and other eastern European countries," Carpenter explained. "When I was 16, I started a blog to advocate for aging out. The kids who are aged out have to find somewhere to work and live on their own, and they have no experience to do that. As a 16-year-old, this really hit me. This would have been me, had I not been adopted, and this would be Veronika if she were not adopted."
Carpenter discussed many of the harrowing statistics that correlate with orphans who become aged out.
"Sixty percent of the girls end up in prostitution and trafficking," Carpenter said. Seventy percent become hardened criminals, join gangs and get into drugs. Specifically in Russia and Ukraine, 10 percent of the kids end up committing suicide before they are 18."
Her stay in Ukraine a year ago coincided with the major upheavals that happened at the time. It left a lasting impression on Carpenter and provided inspiration. Her parents were in Ukraine to finalize the adoptions of two of their children. Carpenter helped her mother with the care of the children, both of whom have special needs.
For Veronika, before being adopted, she will be hosted by the Eichorsts. Hosting is different to adoption. It is mainly done over the summer, for older children, to show them America and see if they want to come here and be adopted, Carpenter said.
With knowledge of what happens to aged-out orphans, the Eichorsts were adamant about adopting Veronika.
The Carpenters frequent monthly adoption meetings, called "Blessing Innocent Children," at Brethren in Christ Church in Manheim. Though the church and the group are not directly a part of the process, Carpenter is pleased to have their support.
"The church and the group have been very positive and supportive moving forward with the proceedings," Carpenter's mother said.
Veronika's prom was prompted by talk of Carpenter's peers regarding prom.
"Prom just isn't for me," she laughed, "I'd rather be at home reading a book."
The usual energy put into prom by girls her age is now being channeled in Veronika's Prom, which will coincide with prom and raise money to help bring Veronika to the U.S.
The event will take place at 31 Limestone Court, the Eichorts' residence in Lititz, from 4:30 p.m. to midnight on May 1. It will feature games, pizza, movies and more. The time is designed to maximize the opportunity from prom-goers to stop by and make a donation before or after the dance.
"We're going to collect donations at the door. Anything, even if it is just a dollar, will add up," Carpenter said. "Cedar Crest has been great, too, and very supportive. There'll be a donation box at prom, as well."
Amidst the excitement of prom, Carpenter is looking to make it a life-changing event. She was quick to say that it wasn't competing with prom, but to add to it with the perspective of saving someone's life and making it truly unforgettable.
Carpenter also chalked up much her inspiration to her faith, even pinpointing an exact Bible verse that sums up not only her philosophy, but Ting Ministries' as well.
James 1:27 reads: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress."
For more information, visit: www.flowersoffreedomandpeace.blogspot.com, www.gofundme.com/veronikasprom or call Ting Ministries at 717-673-6548.