May 28, 2018
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Bangor seventh-grader chasing national dream

By Dale McGarrigle, Of The Weekly Staff

BANGOR — For much of her life, Sydney McDonald has been helping others.

The seventh grader at William S. Cohen School has volunteered at local food pantries, the American Folk Festival, her church, the Snowman Fair and Habitat for Humanity ,and visits the elderly in nursing homes. An animal lover, she has also rescued two dogs in the last year, one a therapy dog for a deaf autistic girl.

McDonald, 12, has done this while maintaining high honors in school despite being enrolled in accelerated classes. She’s also taken part in many extracurricular activities, including cheering, Spanish Club, chorus, crafter’s club, and swim team.

She earned another honor recently. As one of the first students from her school to take part in the state National History Day competition, she placed second in the Web site category for her presentation “Technology Revolution: The Cellular Phone” (found at This earned her a spot in the national competition, to be held June 10-14 at the University of Maryland.

It was only after the elation of gaining such an opportunity that McDonald and the other state qualifiers were told that, due to budget cuts at the federal and state levels, there was no funds to subsidize their trips to the nationals.

So now McDonald, who would be representing her school, her city, and her state at the nationals, has until May 15 to raise the slightly more than $2,100 so that she and her mother, Camille Morrison, can go to the event. That amount includes transportation, lodging, meals, and registration.

This is yet another obstacle for McDonald to overcome. She’s had many in her young life. She lost her beloved older brother Robert, 16 years her senior, to a car accident when she was 4. So while other kids her age were going to dance or gymnastic class or summer camp, she was attending Pathfinders, learning how to cope with Robert’s death.

Her mother has had to deal with medical conditions for most of the past decade, first a brain aneurism and more recently lymphedema, a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system, which resulted from a broken foot.

So McDonald has spent much of her time as her mother’s caretaker.

She has met all these challenges with a positive outlook, according to her mother, who wrote, “Through all of this, she has never complained. When she came to me and asked if she could take dance class, gymnastics or go to camp, my heart would break when I had to tell her how much I wish she could, but we couldn’t afford it. Or that I wouldn’t be able to drive her. Or that I needed her at home with me. She would hide her disappointment, smile, and say, ‘That’s OK, maybe next time.’ ”

So the news about the lack of funds for the trip to nationals is one more blow that McDonald has had to weather with grace. And determination. She and her mother are approaching local businesses and organizations for sponsorships, in exchange for which she would give presentations or volunteer for their favorite charities. They’ve worked up certificates of appreciation and a brochure with advertiser spots which she would give out at her presentations.

“This time I am asking for her,” Morrison said. “I’m a proud person, and I’m not used to asking for help. But this time I would like to do it for her, as so many times she has done it for me. I promise you she will make her friends, family, school, district, city, and state proud. We know that times are hard, and appreciate any sponsorship or help with ideas.”

For more information, call Morrison at 974-8429 or email Those wishing to donate can send payment to Camille Morrison, 419 Essex St., Bangor, ME 04401 or pay via Paypal by going to, clicking on Personal Payment and sending to

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