At age 8, Emma Thode already is proving she has a penchant for philanthropy.

The third-grader at Mills Pond Elementary School in St. James, using a homemade collection bin, raised about $500 at athletic events this fall in the Center Moriches school district, where her father works.

The funds will benefit Strength for Life, a community exercise program based in Port Jefferson Station that offers group classes to people with cancer to enhance their recovery.

Emma was inspired to start raising money after her grandfather died earlier this year from complications related to diabetes, said her father, Jeremy Thode.

"She started this crusade on her own," he said. "As parents, we want our kids to be passionate about something, and she seems to have found it. It's absolutely heartwarming."

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To kick off the effort, Emma contributed money from her piggy bank and encouraged her sisters to do the same. She has solicited donations at as many as 10 events at Center Moriches High School.

She plans to donate the money at Evelyn Knapp's 5k Run to Remember, scheduled Sunday in Kings Park, which is being coordinated by Strength for Life.