Ten years ago, Hilary Spivack's mom built a doll house that she thought would last a lifetime. Yesterday, mother and child found out the doll house, raffled off in a burst of holiday cheer, would mean life to children a world away from their Potomac home.
"I just wanted to show we cared," said 10-year-old Hilary, following a ceremony in which she handed Gov. Harry Hughes a check for $805, money she raised for starving Ethiopians by selling chances outside a supermarket.
"We just wanted to help and we wanted other people to care," she said.
Hilary made the decision to raffle off her doll house, the toy she called her most valuable possession, while she and her mother were talking about the drought in Ethiopia, a news event the fifth grader from Holton-Arms School in Bethesda says she only knows about from television.
"I had been to Africa -- to Morocco -- with my parents on vacation," the girl said. "But I had never been to Ethiopia."
The Spivacks, who live in one of the most affluent sections of one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, decided they didn't just want to give money. Instead, they wanted to raise money in a way that would publicize the need of the East African nation and involve other people in the season of giving.
A raffle would be the perfect method, Hilary said. And a quick perusal of her home produced what she thought was the perfect toy to tempt even the busiest Christmas shopper.
"We wanted it to be something of value," Hilary's mother Sheryl said yesterday. "And we decided it would be the doll house."
During the next two days, Hilary and schoolmate Lauren Gavaris did a kind of premature spring cleaning on the ornate wooden house that had been built the year Hilary was born. They cleaned its petit point rugs and polished its miniature chandelier. A new roof was raised and new carpet laid. The night before the big sale -- the weekend before Christmas -- the two girls fashioned costumes of red leotards, red sweatshirts and red Santa caps to wear as part of their sales pitch.
At the end of a busy Saturday outside Safeway, the two girls had sold 300 tickets worth $2 a piece and collected more than $200 in donations. It was enough money, they were later told by Red Cross officials, to feed 15 Ethiopian children for a year. "We just sat out front and got to everybody we could," Lauren said yesterday.
With their parents, the two took the money to Annapolis yesterday and were greeted by the governor, who last week designated Dec. 23 through 30 as "Save the Children of Ethiopia Week." Hughes sent the money to the Carrollton Bank of Baltimore, which is accepting contributions for famine relief and giving out the money to charitable organizations that are sending food to Ethiopia, according to an office spokesman.
"There are a lot of places that are poor and have no shelter or food," Hilary said after her visit. "But Ethiopia seems to be the most unfortunate of these nations . . . . We wanted to show we cared."