Young Activist Recognized At 2008 General Conference

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Young Activist Recognized At 2008 General Conference

FORT WORTH: Katherine Commale is living proof that no one is too young to live out the overall theme of the 2008 United Methodist General Conference-giving others "A Future with Hope."

The 7-year-old, with her mother Lynda, was introduced April 24 to the gathering in Fort Worth by Bishop John Hopkins, North Canton, Ohio, as examples of how to make a difference in the world. Katherine and her family have raised more than $42,000 for the purchase of insecticide-treated bed nets to protect a potential 1,000 people in Africa from mosquitoes that carry malaria.

Katherine was just five years old when she recognized a good cause and went to work to support it. "Mom, let's do something about this," she said after she and her mother viewed Malaria Fever Wars, a PBS special that aired in April 2006. "Let's send them bed nets."

Mother and daughter used displays of bed nets, skits and other activities to educate children in their church, HopewellUnitedMethodistChurch, Downingtown, Pa., about the dangers of malaria to African children. "The kids took to it," Lynda Commale recalls. "The 5- and 6-year-olds understood. They knew a bed net would save a life."

"We asked people to buy bed nets so we can save lives in Africa," Katherine says. And buy, they did. The Commales' first presentation, in September 2006, raised $1,500.

A few months later, in January 2007, she turned 6, celebrating her birthday at the launch of Nothing But Nets, a global, grassroots campaign to prevent malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. During an NBA taping, Katherine used a diorama she and her 3-year-old brother Joseph had made to demonstrate with how a bed net saves a life.

"Every 30 seconds, a child dies from malaria," Katherine reminded the viewing audience. "If they have a bed net, the mosquitoes can't get in."

Insecticide-treated bed nets are a simple and cost-effective way to prevent malaria transmission. One bed net can safely last a family about four years, thanks to a long-lasting insecticide woven into the fabric.

Katherine and her family were also invited to the White House to take part in the first-ever Africa Malaria Day in the U.S. and to hear the First Lady and President Bush speak about the nation's commitment to fighting malaria.

Lynda Commale says she is justifiably proud of her family, which includes husband Anthony, because they "stepped up to do something so wonderful and so simple to save lives."

The Commales' introduction came during a presentation by the Connectional Table, an organization within the church that guides missions and ministries. General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church, with a maximum of 1,000 delegates, half clergy, half lay.

The people of The United Methodist Church partner with NBA Cares, Sports Illustrated, the United Nations Foundation, the Measles Initiative and others in the campaign, which has raised more than $18 million to date.

Nothing But Nets got its start when Rick Reilly, a Sports Illustrated columnist, issued a plea for readers to send in donations of $10 per bed net to help prevent malaria in Africa. That amount buys and delivers a bed net to a person in Africa, where a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds.

More information about the Nothing But Nets campaign, and the involvement of The United Methodist Church, is available at www.nothingbutnets.netor

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