Congratulations to 14-year-old Kayla Abramowitz, Heart of America’s 2016 Christopher Reeve Service Award Recipient! Kayla is the Chief Kid Officer and Founder of Kayla Cares 4 Kids, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that collects and donates educational and entertainment items to children’s hospitals nationwide. Kayla Cares 4 Kids’ mission is to “help sick kids feel better one smile at a time.” What began in 2013 as a grassroots collection of 100 DVDs for a Miami hospital has blossomed into a national enterprise with 10,500 DVDs, books, video games, consoles and electronics donated to 90 medical facilities and Ronald McDonald Houses in all 50 states. Kayla serves on her organization’s board of directors and oversees 11 Ambassadors across nine states, as well as hundreds of student volunteers locally.
Kayla came up with the idea for Kayla Cares 4 Kids at age 11, after noticing a limited DVD selection during one of her many hospital stays, due to Crohn’s Disease (a lifelong inflammatory bowel disease) and juvenile arthritis. Kayla’s youngest brother has also been hospitalized for chronic illnesses. Kayla started Kayla Cares 4 Kids by creating a flyer, and walked door-to-door to explain her mission to neighbors, who loved the idea and donated DVDs.
Next, she enlisted the help of her Girl Scout troop, followed by a school-wide DVD collection. After an article ran in The Palm Beach Post, hundreds of DVDs showered Kayla’s doorstep. Soon after, Kayla created a Kayla Cares 4 Kids Facebook page, and donors nationwide and additional DVDs poured in. Within two months, Kayla had donated 300 DVDs to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami and 500 DVDs to 10 Shriner’s Hospitals, spread from Tampa to Seattle. Kayla won a $1,000 Youth Service America and WPLG-TV “Summer of Service Award,” which paid for shipping the DVDs.
In seventh grade, Kayla was accepted into the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), where the Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce provided business mentors for her. Through YEA, Kayla created a business plan for Kayla Cares 4 Kids and formed her board of directors. She is hands-on in virtually every aspect of her 501(c)3 organization, from management to marketing to fund-raising to outreach. Kayla has recruited an accountant, attorney, school principal, graphic artist, website developer, two printing companies and two small business owners to help grow Kayla Cares 4 Kids. In 2015, she was named “National Young Entrepreneur” of the Year by YEA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She also was named one of two state honorees for the 2016 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and was a local Jefferson Award winner, as selected by WPTV. For her work, Kayla has been formally recognized by the Governor of Florida and two city councils.
Last year, Kayla set a goal to donate items to children in all 50 states, and by the fall, she had reached her goal. Kayla’s new objective is to donate to all 250 children’s hospitals and 181 Ronald McDonald Houses nationwide.
To date, Kayla has raised more than $25,000 in cash donations and received in-kind donations valued at more than $40,000. Volunteering approximately 20 hours per week, Kayla has accrued more than 2,500 volunteer service hours. Most importantly, her outreach has touched tens of thousands of hospitalized children and families.
All this has been accomplished while Kayla battles tremendous personal obstacles presented by her illnesses, which are challenging and unpredictable.
To learn more about Kayla and her service activities through Kayla Cares 4 Kids, please visit: www.kaylacares4kids.org
Image courtesy: Ian Wagreich, U.S. Chamber of Commerce