North Palm Beach teen wins national Jewish award

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Kayla Abramowitz, 14, of North Palm Beach, with the 2016 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award she won for her charity, Kayla Cares 4 Kids. Kayla is pictured with her family, parents Andrea and Michael, and brothers Ben, 13, and Ethan, 11.

What started as a desire to collect 100 DVDs for Miami Children’s Hospital to help children staying there alleviate boredom has turned into a major national charity.

Kayla Abramowitz, 14, of North Palm Beach, started Kayla Cares 4 Kids in 2013 after her own long stay at Miami Children’s Hospital caused her to realize the lack of things for children to do for fun while in the hospital.

Soon, Abramowitz started dreaming bigger – as she took on the challenge of providing entertaining and educational recreational items for kids at the 250 children’s hospitals and 181 Ronald McDonald Houses around the nation.

So far, Abramowitz has delivered materials to 105 of these facilities around the country to keep youth engaged and motivated during long hospital stays in an effort to lift their spirits and help them stay positive.

With the help of 13 ambassadors in 11 states, collection boxes in numerous communities and an active social media campaign, Kayla Cares 4 Kids has donated more than 11,000 items in all 50 states to date.

For her vision and efforts, Abramowitz was recently selected as one of only 14 Jewish teens nationwide to receive the prestigious 2016 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award – a $36,000 award that recognizes teens for their commitment to social good and volunteer service.

Abramowitz plans to use half the award to save for her college education and the other $18,000 to build an office space for her organization and hire some staffers.

On Monday Aug. 22, Abramowitz attended a special luncheon in San Francisco where she received her Diller award.

“It was awesome to be in this special group of teenagers who are all doing such wonderful projects,” Abramowitz said. “Each had their own unique skills and interests, but we are all doing such wonderful work.”

According to Kayla’s mother, Andrea Abramowitz, what makes Kayla’s success even more amazing is she accomplishes all these great things while fighting her own medical conditions – Crohn’s Disease, Juvenile Arthritis and Eosinophilic Colitis.

“Kayla is amazing,” said Andrea Abramowitz. “She has taken what she has learned from battling her own illnesses and devoted herself to helping other children. My husband, Michael, and I are so proud of her. They say it is better to give than receive and Kayla is a great big example of that.

“We also want to thank everyone who has donated to Kayla Cares 4 Kids. Donating even one DVD has allowed us to brighten so many children’s lives.”

Added Kayla: “It’s worth all the effort when you see the kids’ faces light up when you bring them some fun things to play with. I make sure to ask each facility what they need most before sending them any items.”

Michael Abramowitz, Kayla’s father, said it is mind-boggling to believe how much Kayla Cares 4 Kids has grown since she came to him three years ago with the idea to gather 100 DVDs for Miami Children’s Hospital.

“It is so special for Kayla to win yet another national award from such a prestigious national organization as the Diller Foundation,” Michael Abramowitz said. “To see her among such talented teens – who are all doing such amazing projects – was marvelous. This wonderful project just continues to grow.”

For more information about Kayla Cares 4 Kids, or to make a donation, visit www.kaylacares4kids.org or call 561-389-4648. Right now, a pressing need for the organization is for someone to donate office space in Palm Beach Gardens.

Now in its tenth year, the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards have given more than $3 million dollars to 84 Jewish teens who are tackling global issues and creating lasting change through tikkun olam – a central Jewish value meaning to repair the world.

The awards were created in 2007 due to the vision of the late San Francisco Bay Area philanthropist Hellen Diller, the founder of The Helen Diller Family Foundation.

“We are so proud of all the award recipients,” said Jackie Safier, Helen Diller’s daughter and president of the Helen Diller Family Foundation, in a recent email. “Each of them has demonstrated leadership, commitment and a passion for making positive changes throughout the world. Their work reminds us that no matter your age, anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

“The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards program provides the opportunity to recognize and support the next generation of youth committed to making positive changes in the world. We are so pleased to be able to acknowledge the leadership and passion of these 14 spectacular teens.

“They are now part of the Foundation’s growing network of 84 young change-makers and we all look forward to seeing what they do next.”

The 2016 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award recipients were recognized not only for their vision and demonstration of leadership skills, but for their ability to strategically create workable solutions to critical issues facing society today.

Descriptions of all 14 award recipients and their projects are listed at www.dillerteenawards.org. Nominations for the 2017 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards also are available at that website.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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