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Hernando County siblings use music as an act of charity

Jessica Doolittle, 14, performs music with her 18-year-old brother, Shawn, to raise money for sick children. Shawn is studying in New York City.

PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE | Times\uFEFF

Jessica Doolittle, 14, performs music with her 18-year-old brother, Shawn, to raise money for sick children. Shawn is studying in New York City.

SPRING HILL — Jessica and Shawn Doolittle share more than just their bloodlines. They enjoy playing music and performing, and they like to help other people, especially children.

Jessica, 14, a freshman at Springstead High School, sings, dances, and plays the piano, guitar and drums.

Shawn, 18, sings, plays piano and composes music. A 2008 Nature Coast Technical High School graduate, he is now in New York City, dividing his time between the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Juilliard School.

In 2004, they were invited to entertain to help raise funds for a child stricken with cancer. They enjoyed the experience so much that they approached their parents, Elizabeth and Peter Doolittle, about organizing themselves so they could keep it up.

"We thought that was a really good idea," Elizabeth Doolittle said, "to help other children, because they have talents — singing and dancing, and playing piano and writing music."

Thus, in 2006, the nonprofit organization "Kids Helping Kids" was born.

Since then, Jessica and Shawn (when he can get home from New York) have been doing events for local children at community centers, churches — even a restaurant.

Jessica said she and Shawn just want to help kids in need.

"I feel blessed to have what we need and very fortunate,'' she said. "I'd like to let other kids know that they can use what they have to help other people."

Last May, Jessica and Shawn held a concert at Timber Pines Golf Community and raised $3,000 for St. Jude's Children's Hospital. They also raised more than $8,000 in two concerts for a local student injured in a football accident.

If no charity is specified, the money raised often goes to St. Jude's or to Blooming Place for Kids, a refuge for abused children.

Although they have obvious musical talents, both students plan on careers outside performing. Jessica is interested in pediatrics, and Shawn is studying journalism and wants to be a magazine fashion editor.

Shawn, though, plans to continue "Kids Helping Kids."

"Shawn's plan is to establish a school of arts and have the children use their talents to continue the organization's cause," Elizabeth Doolittle said.

"He wants to have a very affordable school of arts with music, dance and instruments." It would be open to students ages 5 to 18.

"He wants to keep the 'Kids Helping Kids' more of a charity," said Peter Doolittle. "Once you make it a business, you lose the purpose."

Since its founding, three children have joined Jessica and Shawn: Chocachatti Elementary School fifth-grader Samantha Gee, and twins Dakota and Lyndsey Ruiz, who are homeschooled.

Shawn is president and founder of "Kids Helping Kids"; Jessica is co-founder and vice president; Samantha is the executive secretary; Lyndsey is the assistant executive secretary; and Dakota is assistant treasurer.

Elizabeth and Peter Doolittle act as treasurer and trustee. Parents Tracy and Arthur Gee and Traci and Michael Ruiz volunteer.

Hernando County siblings use music as an act of charity 04/22/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 4:30am]
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