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Wish jars at Hampton High School benefit Emma Bursick Memorial Fund

| Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Members of the Hampton High School National Honor Society know that little contributions really can add up to something big.

The service organization is using a fundraiser that converts pocket change into large bills this holiday season to benefit one of their own.

Terri Koprivnikar, a high school guidance counselor and National Honor Society sponsor, said the organization chose the Emma Bursick Memorial Fund as its charity to benefit for the school year. The group chooses a different charity each year to raise funds for through several small events.

The Emma Bursick Memorial Fund was created as a legacy to Joe Bursick's daughter, Emma, who died in July 2008 from sudden unexpected death in epilepsy, or SUDEP.

Joe Bursick, a math teacher and wrestling coach at Hampton High School, said Emma had epilepsy but otherwise was a healthy 7-year-old girl when she suddenly died overnight.

“I went to wake her up, and I found that she'd passed away in her bed,” said Bursick, an Indiana Township resident. “We were working very closely with a lot of her doctors, but no one had ever mentioned SUDEP as a possibility. We were caught off guard.”

The memorial fund was created to raise awareness and money for research about SUDEP so that someday, other families will not have to go through the same loss the Bursicks experienced, Bursick said.

The students of the National Honor Society took this mission to heart this year, said Koprivnikar, adding that Joe Bursick is a favorite with many of the students.

During the holidays, students pass out decorated Mason jars called “wish jars,” to friends and family to get rid of their pocket change that builds up through Christmas shopping. Students passed out four or five wish jars each.

“Last year, we raised $3,100 for Make-A-Wish foundation,” Koprivnikar said. “We were a large-enough contributor that we're considered wish granters.”

There are about 60 students in the National Honor Society who each took home four or five jars, Koprivnikar said. When a person accepted a wish jar, he or she promised to put in at least $5. The jars will be collected in January after the holiday break.

Koprivnikar said the National Honor Society also is planning to hold a spaghetti dinner to benefit the Emma Bursick Memorial Fund in the spring.

Bursick said the students, staff and athletic community at Hampton have been incredibly supportive of the fund and its mission to spread awareness over the past few years. He said his family was touched the National Honor Society chose Emma's fund for its charity of the year.

“I've been extremely blessed with a lot of the people here from (the National Honor Society),” he said. “We've been blessed by the people I teach with and coach alongside. They have been very supportive of the mission.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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