Madeleine "Maddy" Wang is a teen motivated to make a positive difference in the world around her.
A Foothill High School sophomore, Wang has given her time to a variety of volunteer efforts that have brightened the lives of people -- and pets -- young and old, as well as raised funds and awareness for Bay Area residents fighting to survive in the face of medical hardship.
The 15-year-old Pleasanton native said she really caught the volunteer bug for the first time in eighth grade, when she baked and sold dog treats to benefit Copper's Dream Animal Rescue, a Bay Area nonprofit supporting dogs in need.
Originating from an English class assignment, Wang created her own dog treat recipes -- with the most popular being her homemade, organic peanut butter dog biscuits. For about a year, she sold the treats to family and friends, with proceeds going to Copper's Dream, around $200 in all.
"It was a good experience," she said looking back. "(The recipes) took a really long time the first time I made them, so it was about becoming more efficient. And then also marketing and handling finances. I learned all those things."
Wang also performs music for seniors at Sunol Creek Memory Care in Pleasanton once or twice a year, appearances organized by her piano teacher.
And she volunteers with Spectrum of Science, serving as a teacher's assistant at Hearst Elementary School to work with young students after school on Wednesdays. It helps that biology and life sciences are her favorite school subjects.
"It's really nice because they're really curious and really interested in learning," Wang said of working with the students. "It's nice to see how engaged the young kids are at learning."
But earlier this year, she took her volunteer efforts to the next level, creating her own fundraising foundation in the wake of personal heartbreak.
In March, her older cousin Justin Yu, a 21-year-old Foothill alum, died from complications from a heart defect -- a loss that was particularly painful for Wang.
"It was really hard the first few weeks. He and I were really close," Wang recalled. "He was almost like an older brother for me. So just coping with it was really difficult at first. I surrounded myself with my family and friends to get over it."
"And I decided I wanted to do something about it," she added. "So I started the foundation."
That effort -- the This Side Up Foundation, created by Wang -- has aimed to sell originally designed t-shirts to benefit Donor Network West, a San Ramon-based nonprofit that helps facilitate organ and tissue recovery for transplantation.
Wang and a friend soon completed the logo design for her fundraising t-shirt -- a left hand with index and middle fingers interlocked, with the tips painted red to look like a heart, alongside the phrase "This Side Up."
The foundation name was inspired by the notion of handling with care and was ultimately finalized after she saw "This Side Up" on a box with fragile contents.
"And I just chose that from there," she said with a smile. The name reminds "to kind of just be careful. Organs are fragile. Lives are precious too."
Wang orders the shirts, custom-made with the logo, from a Fremont company and then sells them online or in person, with all net proceeds going to Donor Network West. So far, she's sold almost 90 shirts, helping her surpass her initial fundraising goal of $800.
"Organ and tissue donation offers the hope to heal lives," said Noel Sánchez, public affairs manager for Donor Network West. "Money raised by students and members of the community help fund initiatives and programs to promote donation education and research."
"Students like Madeleine inspire Californians to register as organ and tissue donors, and her efforts give hope to the 22,000 people still waiting for a life-saving organ transplant in the state," Sánchez added.
Most of her This Side Up fundraising is accomplished through t-shirt sales, but some is also raised from her helping with CPR and first-aid classes at Patterson Enterprises in downtown Pleasanton.
She promotes her efforts through social media like Facebook and Instagram and the website she created, www.thissideupfoundation.org, in addition to word of mouth.
As for growing her foundation from here, "By the end of this year, I'm probably going to have another CPR class and then sell the rest of my t-shirts, and then just kind of continue with that," Wang said. "And then maybe next year, I'll start on something new."
* Born and raised in Pleasanton, Wang attended Hearst Elementary and Pleasanton Middle schools before moving on to Foothill.
* Wang lives in Pleasanton with her mom Tammy Yau and father Steven Wang. Her brother Apollo, 9, and sister Alivia, 6, attend Hearst.
* Her family's dogs, Mochi (shih tzu) and Snoopy (schnauzer poodle mix), were taste-testers for her homemade dog treats. Their favorite recipe was her top seller.
* Favorite hobby: horseback riding and competition. She is also involved with Model UN and speech and debate clubs at Foothill.
* Wang is looking to study science in college, likely biology, but noted, "There's still a while though."
* Her aunt works as community education manager for Donor Network West.
* One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people and a tissue donor can heal more than 75 others, according to the Donor Network West. People can register as a donor at DonorNetworkWest.org or at the DMV.