Kayla Cares Sets Up Donation Boxes in Florham Park (Florham Park Eagle)
FLORHAM PARK – Thanks to a teenager in Florida and her aunt in New Jersey, area residents can join others from across the country by helping children who are spending time in hospitals and extended-care facilities.
Kayla Cares 4 Kids, an organization started by North Palm Beach, Fla., resident Kayla Abramowitz, 13, when she was just 11, has donated more than 10,000 items to 84 children’s hospitals, medical centers, and extended stay houses.
In September, a donation to an Arkansas hospital marked the 50th state the charity has donated to since it was launched in 2013.
Livingston’s Jill Kravis is the charity’s New Jersey Ambassador.
“I help collect items around the community and then I donate them to children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses throughout the state,” Kravis said. “I got involved two years ago after recognizing the positive impact Kayla Cares 4 Kids could have on the Livingston area and throughout New Jersey. Kayla also calls me her head cheerleader because I love to tell everyone about her and I cheer her on for all the great work she is doing.”
Kravis said she collects new and gently used DVDs, game consoles, video games, portable DVD players, handheld electronics, books, and arts and crafts.
Abramowitz, who has been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and Juvenile Arthritis, said she came up with the idea for her charity after several extended hospital stays when she found herself with nothing to do. Her brother Ethan has Eosinophilic Esophagitis and Gastroparesis, along with Juvenile Arthritis, and also has had extended hospital stays.
As a result of Abramowitz and her brother’s experiences, she decided to donate two Thomas the Train DVDs she had at home to a children’s hospital in Miami for other kids to enjoy. Afterward, she started a collection, asking people to donate DVDs to the hospital. As a result, she got over 100 DVDs.
“After that, it was word of mouth,” Abramowitz said. “We got so many donations, we had to give to more than one hospital. I thought, I should go nationwide with this.”
Abramowitz said the organization grew with the help of acquaintances across the country as well as people offering to help after viewing her website.
“We’ve had a great response from the Livingston area,” Kravis said. “The police department has had a collection box for about two years, with hundreds of items coming in.
“Also, the town has given me a booth to promote Kayla Cares 4 Kids the past two years at National Night Out. We also have collection boxes in various doctors’ offices and local businesses. I love telling people about my niece’s organization and all that she has accomplished, and when they hear about it, they automatically want to help, too.”
Collection boxes in the area are located at the Livingston Community Center, Livingston Police Headquarters, West Essex YMCA, Andy’s Family Music Center in Livingston, Starbucks in Roseland, Starbucks in Florham Park, Starbucks in East Hanover, Dunkin’ Donuts at 464 W. Mount Pleasant Ave. in Livingston, PM Pediatrics on Route 10 in Livingston, Florham Park Diner, and the office of Dr. Anthony Quartell at 316 Eisenhower Parkway in Livingston.
Like Kravis, Abramowitz has many people around the country helping her.
“Kayla has a Board of Directors, and many schools in Palm Beach County, Florida, that are getting involved by holding school-wide collections and fundraisers,” said Kravis. “There are companies in Florida, Minnesota and western New York that have been involved in the same way. In addition to me, Kayla has nine Ambassadors throughout the country helping her out. She has new people contacting her almost weekly, wanting to help.”
Abramowitz is proud of what she has accomplished.
Abramowitz said she gets a lot of help, including from her parents, Andrea and Michael, and spends about 15 to 20 hours per week, working on it. She has another younger brother, Ben.
As the organization grows, so do the honors and recognitions. Abramowitz has received. Kayla Cares 4 Kids also just received 500 DVDs from DreamWorks Animation, she said.
Kravis is especially proud of her niece.
“It’s very special. She is changing the world one smile at a time, and people across the country are falling in love with her and her idea to make life better for sick kids and their families,” said Kravis. “I’m incredibly proud of her.”
Kravis adds that Abramowitz is raising awareness for Juvenile Arthritis.
“Kayla and her youngest brother have Juvenile Arthritis, and not many people know that kids can get arthritis, too,” Kravis said. “She has met with her senators and congressmen locally and on Capitol Hill to tell them about the challenges their family faces in an effort to get lawmakers to help. I love that she is learning about advocacy and helping to educate others about a disease that not many people know of.”
For more information and to donate, go to kaylacares4kids.org.
By Nancy D’uva