Happy Easter! To me, the day is about finding beauty in ashes, life in death, joy in mourning. My friend-and-rock-since-college, Leah Okimoto, has been breathing life into these concepts since her son Aaron passed away 4 years ago, just days after his birth.
She founded Aaron's Presents in his memory, and lovingly has been funding and supporting young people in grades 8 and below. With Leah and a carefully selected group of adult mentors, these young people have been implementing their own ideas for bringing joy to others, and in that process, experiencing joy themselves.
To date, over 800 young people from a diverse range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds have helped animals, veterans, houseless people, the elderly, and other young children, and have taught classes, made care packages, performed songs and dances, raised money, designed bike racks, and created safer and more generous and loving communities.
Very little of what Aaron's Presents raises in funds go to overhead, and Leah herself takes almost no salary. They've been selected as one of a few teams to enter the Charity Warrior's Challenge.
As of April 1, they are currently in second place by about $900, and if they can place first by April 6, they'd be able to win a prize of $10K
Friends, I'd love to ask for your help. Let's see if together, we can help more young people realize and experience their own power to make the world around them a more joyful and beautiful place...?
Aarons Presents Inc wrote:
I was never able to ask anyone for money. Didn't even like to talk about it much. You're probably the same way.
However, over the past 4 years, I have found both my life's purpose and a reason to happily ask anyone and everyone for money, which I am doing right now!
I have spent countless hours with hundreds of young children and watched in awe as they voluntarily and joyfully gave their love, time, care, laughter, skills, knowledge and boundless energy to other children, homeless people, animals, teen mothers, those recovering from addiction, refugees, elderly, the sick, the hungry, as well as their own schoolmates, teachers and families.
They chose to answer my invitation to think beyond themselves, notice others' needs, and do something about it, in their own way, using their own unique qualities and personalities. And you know what happened? What they gave came back to them in the form of happiness, excitement, and a sense of purpose and self-worth. Getting a glimpse of their potential to contribute to the larger world, they started to get out into their communities more, say "Yes!" to other opportunities, and plan for their future.
800+ kids from all walks of life, all racial and ethnic backgrounds, kids at the top of their class and kids failing out, kids with abundant resources and kids who don't know where their next meal is coming from... Through their participation in Aaron's Presents, they have all experienced being a giver, a creator, an agent of change and a gift themselves.
And it has been powerful indeed. Take the 7th grade girl who is constantly in trouble in school, who after spending time with homeless children talked with her mentor about her image as a "mean girl" and how she desperately wants to change that. Or the 8th grade boy with failing grades and a bad attitude who helps out one day with a friend's Aaron's Presents project and then starts begging to do more and more because he feels "good" at something--making people happy.
Kids who believe they are capable of bringing good into the world and that the world is better because of their presence are literally our hope for the future. What could be more worth fighting for than a future of people who know how to care for others and value every person's humanity?
So now I am asking you to give, if you are able, Aaron's Presents more resources to use solely for the purpose of giving more children this experience. Every dollar impacts both the young givers and the receivers of their kind acts, and the ripple effects on both are endless. We are very proud to be a 2018 Charity Warrior fundraising our hearts out!! With your help, we could win an additional $10k prize, which would make a HUGE difference for our organization!!
Leah Okimoto, Founder & Executive Director