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Guests to 7-year-old Michael Braam’s birthday party were surprised with a ride on a fire truck. Don Brouwer, who owns a fire truck dealership, offered the jaunt as part of a church auction that raised $13,000 for Bradenton (Fla.) Christian Reformed Church’s youths. For 40 of its 50 years of existence, the Bradenton congregation has budgeted for youth projects so that no one will be left out of mission trips or the Youth Unlimited convention.

This year the 700-member church will spend $9,000 to help send 23 students to SERVE projects in California and 12 students to the youth convention in Utah. The students also do fund-raising for themselves. This year, even the junior-high youth group assisted, donating $230 earned from yard work to the senior high group. That kind of support makes the youths feel like a pivotal part of the congregation, said Tyler Anderson, 16: “They really care enough to help us get there.” Bradenton also sponsors youths from other congregations in the U.S. and Canada who come to Florida during spring break for local SERVE projects.

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