09/04/2016 05:26PM ● Published by Nancy Babin
Sharing…giving…thinking of others…being nice. These are concepts we try to instill in our children in the hope they will grow into responsible adults who will contribute to society in selfless ways. But words and discussions often aren’t enough. Better still would be to provide our children the opportunity to actually experience the personal growth and sense of happiness and fulfillment that comes from helping others. What if they had the chance to put into action now these concepts that will benefit them later in life, all while doing incredible things to enhance the lives of their less-fortunate peers?
Kidz4Kidz Florida provides exactly that opportunity! Kidz4Kidz Florida (K4KFL) is a charitable program that enables kids to develop leadership, charity and entrepreneurship as they work to help underprivileged and underserved children within their community and across the state. So many youth in our communities are unable to enjoy the many experiences that others take for granted. K4KFL teaches kids how to raise funds to help these less-fortunate children enjoy life beyond the basic necessities through fun, enriching and educational extracurricular activities.
K4KFL was founded in early 2015 by brother and sister Luke and Maya Sherwood, ages 11 and 13. They based the organization on their beliefs that kindness and the ability to help others exists in all kids, that kids can make a difference in the lives of others, and that they grow as people by giving of themselves. “It means a lot to me that I am as fortunate as I am and I want to do everything I can to help others have a fun life, too,” says Luke. “I feel sympathy for those in need, and I want to do something to help them out. I try to be the best person I can and by helping others through K4KFL, I feel as if I am making a difference.”
The concept of initiating a charitable organization started a few years ago when Luke, Maya, and their dad brainstormed ideas for ways they could help others. They came up with an idea for an organization where kids help other kids, but the organization never took shape. Then, in 2014, they bought Christmas presents for several kids in need at the Children’s Home Society of Florida. “What really moved me was one little girl’s Christmas list,” says Luke. “She asked for only one thing – a blue dress. Even though she had very little, she didn’t ask for much. This sparked something in me as I realized how fortunate I am, and I decided to try to help.”
K4KFL became a reality in early 2015 when Luke approached his dad to find a specific way they could help other kids. They decided to focus on providing fun, educational and enriching life experiences to kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience those opportunities. They created a website and launched K4KFL.
K4KFL went on to partner with the Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS), the state’s oldest and largest charitable organization for children and families. One hundred percent of the money raised by K4KFL is used to provide enriching and educational experiences for children in CHS’s network. To date, K4KFL has raised almost $40,000 and with it has been able to do amazing things. It has enabled siblings who were separated in foster care to reconnect and maintain their sibling bond through fun activities such as miniature golf, skating, trips to the Emerald Coast Science Center and the Gulf Breeze Zoo, even events as simple as going for ice cream or out to eat.
Seventeen-year-old “Jane” was disappointed and depressed, thinking no one was going to celebrate her upcoming birthday as neither of her parents were able to care for her. K4KFL arranged to surprise Jane at school with a special card and cupcake to celebrate her birthday. “I feel great when I hear that a kid got to experience something that I do often,” explains Maya. “Sometimes I feel sad at the same time because I think about how fortunate we are to do the things that we do, while other kids are experiencing it for the first time and think it’s the greatest thing ever.”
While many of these may not stand out as special occasions for some children, without K4KFL, many underprivileged kids would never be able to have such experiences at all. K4KFL helps as many children as possible experience “the true meaning of being a kid,” as Luke puts it. “I get emotional when I continue to hear stories of how kids don’t have the opportunities that I think every kid should have, but when I see that what I started has impacted their lives, it makes me really happy that this small thing has made a difference.”
K4KFL is in the process of expanding throughout the state and increasing participation, and that expansion push starts right here at home along the Emerald Coast. Youth of all ages, their parents and their families are invited to join together and share their passion in support of underprivileged and underserved children. It all starts on the website at www.k4kfl.org. Children and their families and friends can register and create their own page, add pictures or a personal video, and start fundraising for children in need! They can work together in groups, with their families, or individually. They can even earn prizes at certain fundraising benchmarks. Above all, they have the chance to stand up for their peers and make a difference in both themselves and the lives of others. “Try putting yourself in their spot,” Maya says. “How amazing would it be if a group of kids your age started helping you and providing you with things you have never even dreamed of?”
K4KFL has received tremendous support throughout the state and particularly in our local area. Luke and Maya were the guest speakers at a South Walton Rotary Club meeting, and that club and their members have been very gracious in their support. The Pensacola Beach School Junior Optimists Club invited Luke to speak about leadership and K4KFL, and chose K4KFL to receive a contribution. The organizers of the Silver Sleigh Toy Drive, an annual event held in December in memory of a lost loved one, selected K4KFL as the recipient of the drive for Christmas 2015. Over 40 bicycles and helmets, hundreds of gifts and over $1,000 were raised at this event to benefit kids in need during the holiday season! The students and families of Destin Elementary and Destin Middle Schools have purchased hundreds of K4KFL awareness bracelets, and Senator Don Gaetz and his wife recognized the benefits of K4KFL through their generous backing. Many more people have shown their support of both the organization and in particular the children who benefit from having improved life experiences.
As the organization grows, K4KFL is seeking to increase community involvement through sponsorships from local businesses. Those interested in sponsoring or partnering with K4KFL in any way should contact Luke Sherwood at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit www.k4kfl.org today to register or donate and start making a difference in yourself as well as in the lives of others!