By Christa Riddle,
the Ocean Signal
TOMS RIVER–Known as “Generation M²” due to their heavy exposure to and use of media and technology, today’s kids ages 8 to 18 live a good portion of their young lives connected to iPods, computers, video games, tablets, and televisions. Many of these tweens and teens rely upon social media to keep them connected, informed, and entertained, while many adults shake their heads in opposition, wondering aloud if this is a healthy and constructive way for young minds to pass the hours. After all, what good can come out of all of this time spent idly socializing online?
For 14-year-old Sara Brilliant and 16-year-old Amanda Kacperowski, two Ocean County teens, social media and technology proved to be major driving forces behind their brain child “Pier Pressure,” a hurricane relief concert the teen girls successfully planned, coordinated, and promoted in less than three weeks. Pier Pressure realized sales of 200 tickets and raised over $10,000 for the New Jersey Amusement Association First Responders Relief Fund and the Toms River Regional Schools Hurricane Relief Fund. Again, many adults were left to wonder how two teens could accomplish so much in such a short time that helped so many people throughout the community. Of course, the girls’ parents felt nothing short of utter pride and amazement at their daughters’ motivation and achievement.
Prior to Hurricane Sandy, Sara and Amanda forged a friendship online, using tumblr, a micro-blogging and social media platform, to share their love of music and local bands. The girls never met in-person prior to planning for Pier Pressure, even though they live only five miles apart. Immediately after the hurricane left its indelible markings of damage along the Jersey Shore, the teens both witnessed personal stories of the storm’s devastation shared on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and tumblr. Discussing what they saw and how many from the community were hurting, they paired their creative minds to find a way to help those in need, and so began the speedy evolution of Pier Pressure.
Sara and Amanda turned to technology to make their benefit concert a viable reality, using social media and email to contact and book local bands willing to help, as well as to spread the word and sell tickets for the December 1st event at Toms River Intermediate East. The old-fashioned way, Sara and Amanda also pounded the pavement, hanging fliers in restaurants, stores, and entertainment spots all over the Brick and Toms River areas. Their event even received promotion on local radio stations.
The excitement and enthusiasm expressed by the fundraiser’s young founders spread with the same magnitude as the hurricane’s crashing waves as people from the area bought tickets to help their community while getting to see local bands perform. Some of the bands who donated their talents included Honor Society, the main act, as well as Kicking Daisies, Reverse Order, The Dedication, and Over the Edge. “In addition to bringing us closer together as friends, the storm brought our community closer. It showed how you can help others and make a difference in their lives,” shared Sara, a student in Toms River North High School’s class of 2016 who wants to be an archaeologist, FBI agent, or film director after high school.
Amanda, who plans to pursue a career in graphic design after she graduates from Monsignor Donovan High School in 2014, also commented, “The community and others around us were hurting, and we felt like we needed to put our time in to help. You should consider yourself lucky if the storm didn’t affect you.” Surprised by the success of their first fundraiser, the dynamic duo of Generation M² plans more benefits in the future. Sara and Amanda’s efforts and dedication show how the upcoming generation’s ingenuity and creative power can positively impact our world, as well as how technology and social media can bring people together during a time of need.
written by Christa Riddle, All About Writing, www.allaboutwritingconsulting.com for the Ocean Signal.