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Presenters and sharks of Shark Tank: Mission (top row, from left) Gene Howerton, Bob Gerzel, Suzanne Honeycutt, Tracy Langley; (bottom row, from left) Shelby Morgan, Logan Franks, Kendall Cosper, Austin Franks, Andrew Gardner, Cooper Hayman, Isabella Nolan and Libby Devooght. Photo courtesy of the Florida Conference / Jessica Chapman

Photo courtesy of the Florida Conference / Jessica Chapman

Presenters and sharks of Shark Tank: Mission (top row, from left) Gene Howerton, Bob Gerzel, Suzanne Honeycutt, Tracy Langley; (bottom row, from left) Shelby Morgan, Logan Franks, Kendall Cosper, Austin Franks, Andrew Gardner, Cooper Hayman, Isabella Nolan and Libby Devooght.

Shark Tank: Mission

Christine Kumar
May-June 2017

It Worked for Us

The young people stood before the five "sharks," each pitching ideas for making the world a better place.

As each of the six groups spoke about their idea and the funding they needed, the judges, all members of Southside United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, were impressed. "The teens took it very seriously," said Suzanne Honeycutt, one of the judges.

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Steve Dickson, youth director at Southside, and then-youth assistant Connie Hoover wanted the youth both to understand empathy and passion, Dickson said, and "we wanted to turn passion into action. We came up with Shark Tank: Mission," an event patterned after "Shark Tank," a television show in which budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors.

Prior to the Nov. 13, 2016, event, the teens researched causes that spoke to their hearts.

Seventh grader Libby DeVooght's project was "Ukuleles for Christ." She asked for funds to purchase ukuleles for those who could not afford them and pay an instructor to teach the class.

Shelby Morgan, a sixth grader, sought funds to allow students at Hendricks Avenue Elementary School to go on field trips.

Logan Frank, 17, is taking water filters to Guatemala to allow people in the villages to have clean drinking water. The funds from Shark Tank: Mission and other means like GoFundMe will allow Frank and her mother to continue distributing water filters through their "Clean Water for Lasting Water" project. In 2016, they handed out 200 filters and plan to give 100 this year.

"There is so much joy in getting the opportunity to serve others," Frank said. "I feel so blessed to live here." The clean water also reminds her of the living water that Jesus offered the Samaritan woman at the well.

Each of the six groups received at least $300 for their project. "Hopefully, we can get more people involved and do this annually," Dickson said.

Christine Kumar is a freelance writer and administrator for the Baltimore Metropolitan District of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.