Teen helps kids feel better one smile at a time (Florida Weekly)

 Kayla Abramowitz (right) received the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award after donating 100 items to Family House, similar to Ronald McDonald House, in San Francisco. COURTESY PHOTO

Kayla Abramowitz (right) received the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award after donating 100 items to Family House, similar to Ronald McDonald House, in San Francisco

Kayla Abramowitz knows all too well how tedious hospital life can be for a child who has to spend way too much time there. Trios of nemeses — Crohn’s disease, juvenile arthritis and eosinophilic colitis — have meant extended hospital stays for the North Palm Beach teenager.

Her brother, Ethan, 11, understands the tedium of hospital life, as well, since he struggles with juvenile arthritis, eosinophilic esophagitis and he uses a feeding machine.

“It’s really boring there (in the hospital), especially when you can’t get out of bed,” Ms. Abramowitz, 14, said. It is a problem she decided to tackle herself, with the help of family — including mom Andrea, dad Michael, brothers Ben and Ethan — and lots of friends.

 TOP: Kayla Cares 4 Kids recently made its 100th donation to the DeGeorge Pediatric Unit at Jupiter Medical Center. Front row, in Kayla Cares shirts, Arty Falk, board member; Jennifer Sabin, board member; Ben Abramowitz, Kayla Abramowitz and Andrea Abramowitz at Jupiter Medical Center. In plain clothes: Natalie Warmuskerken, child life specialist, JMC; John Couris, president and CEO of Jupiter Medical Center; Carla Salvatore-Bimmler, director of pediatrics; Marlene Goodwin-Esola, assistant chief nursing officer (in yellow); and April Okerson, assistant clinical manager-pediatrics (in purple scrubs). BOTTOM: Kayla Abramowitz received the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award after donating 100 items to Family House, similar to Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco.

Kayla Cares 4 Kids recently made its 100th donation to the DeGeorge Pediatric Unit at Jupiter Medical Center. Front row, in Kayla Cares shirts, Arty Falk, board member; Jennifer Sabin, board member; Ben Abramowitz, Kayla Abramowitz and Andrea Abramowitz at Jupiter Medical Center. In plain clothes: Natalie Warmuskerken, child life specialist, JMC; John Couris, president and CEO of Jupiter Medical Center; Carla Salvatore-Bimmler, director of pediatrics; Marlene Goodwin-Esola, assistant chief nursing officer (in yellow); and April Okerson, assistant clinical manager-pediatrics (in purple scrubs).

 COURTESY PHOTO

Kayla Abramowitz received the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award after donating 100 items to Family House, similar to Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco. In 2013, she founded and serves as CKO (Chief Kid Officer) of Kayla Cares 4 Kids, a nonprofit organization that collects CDs, movies, games and educational items to donate to children’s hospitals.

To date, the organization has delivered more than 11,500 DVDs, video game consoles, video games, DVD players, hand-held electronics, books and arts and crafts to 100 children’s hospitals and related facilities in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

It all began with a simple flier Ms. Abramowitz made and handed out while selling Girl Scout cookies. Her initial goal was to round up 100 DVDs to donate to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, but after a story about her project appeared in a local newspaper, donations tripled.

She and friends had lemonade stands to raise money, too.

“The lemonade stands were good fundraisers,” she said. “Someone even paid $100 for a glass.”

As word of her charity spread, her donations grew.

“It started catching on like wildfire,” said Ms. Abramowitz, now a freshmen at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens.

Another story about Kayla Cares 4 Kids in a Boca Raton magazine inspired a girl to help the cause by collecting DVDs and CDs for the charity as a Bat Mitzvah project.

“Kids all over the country are helping me now,” she said. Last year, with a donation made at the Arkansas’ Mercy Hospital, Kayla Cares 4 Kids had donated to medical facilities in all 50 states.

Much to her surprise, Ms. Abramowitz began winning awards, too. Last year she won the national Young Entrepreneurs Academy competition. She received training that helped her understand business plans and balance sheets and helped her meet potential collaborators.

In August, the North Palm Beach Village Council presented Ms. Abramowitz with a commemorative gift in recognition of her public service with Kayla Cares 4 Kids and acknowledgement of her achievements.

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater nominated Ms. Abramowitz for the Christopher Reeve Service Award and she became the national winner.

Ms. Abramowitz also was one of 14 recipients in the country to win the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award ($36,000) in San Francisco. The Palm Beach Gardens Kiwanis held their annual College Football Roast a month ago and chose Kayla Cares 4 Kids to be their charity for a fundraiser — they raised $3,950.

Throughout it all, her optimism has grown, as well.

“I’ve learned how great the world is and how great people can be,” she said.

“I’m working hard as ever to help sick kids feel better one smile at a time,” Ms. Abramowitz said.

To learn more or to donate to Kayla Cares 4 Kids, visit www.kaylacares4kids.org.

BY MARY THURWACHTER

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