Dysart girl gives back

8-year old reaches goal toward zoo fundraiser

Ainsley Reese shows off her selection of handmade jewelry at the last Dysart Farmers Market of the season. Reese has been making and selling food and crafts at the farmers market for the past three summers. Darvin Graham/News Chronicle

During the last Dysart Farmer’s Market of the year, 8-year-old Ainsley Reese hit a fundraising goal that’s been part of a three-year effort.

Reese is the daughter of Greg and Jennifer Reese of Dysart and each summer for the past three years has undertaken a different project to help give back to those around her.

This summer Reese has been selling homemade cookies, handmade rubber band jewelry and handmade pot holders at the weekly farmers market in Dysart’s city park. Her goal was to raise $1,000 this summer to donate toward the Blank Park Zoo who, after being closed for two months this spring, were facing challenges in finding funds to pay for animal food and routine maintenance at the park.

With one week left to go at the farmers market, Reese was just $42.53 away from her goal.

Although market traffic has dwindled some at the end of summer, Reese got just enough to surpass $1,000 to reach her goal.

Reese learned that the zoo needs roughly $1,900 per day to feed all of their animals. She initially hoped to raise enough to pay for a whole days worth of food, but given the shortened market season, she adjusted the goal down to $1,000.

Reese shares a zoo membership with her grandparents and has often enjoyed visiting to see the tigers, pet the goats and llamas and to ride the camels. As the zoo was without ticket sales for several weeks, the organization sent out letters to their members seeking financial help to aid their food and maintenance needs.

Reese heard about the difficulty the zoo was having and felt compelled to do something.

The young Dysart resident is no stranger to grassroots philanthropy. This is her third year engaging in a fundraising project at the farmer’s market.

She began in 2018 selling lemonade to assist with the Dysart Community Garden, Home and Health Closet and the North Tama County Food Pantry.

Last summer Reese raised over $600 selling rubber band jewelry, doubling her total from the year before. Proceeds last year were donated to the Little Knights Learning Center and the D-G Elementary PTO.

Her mother remembers the projects began with a simple request that seemed to come out of no where.

“She came home from school one day and said, ‘I want to help give money to the poor’. So we tried to help her figure something out.”

This year Reese and her family have been working each week on baking cookies and making jewelry to keep her booth stocked.

Reese reports her favorite part of this year’s project was helping to make fresh cookies each week.

“The cookies were my favorite probably because if any of them crumbled or fell apart, I could taste them,” Reese said. “I always taste try them to make sure they’re good before we sell them. You have to because people don’t want to buy cookies that taste terrible.”

If you missed Reese’s booth at the farmer’s market this summer and would still like to help out, she accepts orders for her jewelry through her parents’ email address: rubberjewelry2@gmail.com.

The annual Dysart Farmer’s Market sponsored by the Dysart Development Corporation wrapped up their 2020 season on Sept. 29.

This year’s market was unlike any other due to the scheduling challenges put forth by the pandemic and the derecho storm.

Market Manager Erica Dickerson reported that the turnout this year was decent despite the challenges. Vendors brought baked goods, fresh produce, and crafts to the city park each Tuesday afternoon.

On the last evening of the season the park was bustling with kids and families going to and from youth football practice.

Dickerson has been attending the market for several years selling her homemade baked goods. This year was her first year operating and selling produce from a garden.

She encourages anyone in the community to consider making plans to participate in next year’s Dysart Farmer’s Market. Booth space is free of charge and the crowd is usually friendly and dependable.