Mia Smith is helping to fund breast cancer research– and she’s only 11 years old.
Over the last three years, the 6th grader has donated close to $10,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through her annual event “Making Cents out of Breast Cancer.”
During the month of October, she hosts fundraisers, assemblies and raffles in her Farmingdale, New York, community to raise money for research.
“My goal is one day find a cure because people with cancer are struggling out there,” Mia tells PEOPLE. “I know what it is to have a loved one suffer with breast cancer and I don’t wish it on anyone. I want people to survive.”
Mia started her campaign in 2014 – four years after her mother, Lisa Smith, was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.
“I hated seeing her like that, it was depressing,” says Mia. “She always looked sick. I was only 5, but I always thought about it. So I started learning about cancer and I’ve never stopped learning.”
The middle schooler went to her principal at the time and told him she wanted to raise money for research. So they set up donation boxes in school classrooms where students could donate loose change.
“That first year I made $780,” she says. “In 2015, I raised $3,500.”
And close family friend Gloria Gaynor matched Mia’s $3,500 to double her donation last year.
Lisa says her daughter has always been passionate about finding a cure for breast cancer.
“She had this social consciousness from the start about my struggles and how cancer is a bigger problem that needs to be solved,” Lisa, 48, tells PEOPLE. “She was just in tune with the things that are important in this world.”
A huge success, “Making Cents out of Breast Cancer” has been added to the Farmingdale school district’s calendar as an annual monthly event. The winner of this year’s classroom competition will win free pink-colored bagels for each student. Billie Joel has donated tickets to his concert, which Mia is giving away in a raffle. And she is hosting a pink-out day on Monday to bring awareness to her campaign.
“It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we work together, I’m hoping to raise $10,000 this year for breast cancer research,” says Mia. “Together we can make a difference.”
Donations to “Making Cents out of Breast Cancer” can be made here.