Of the many awards bestowed at this year’s National Philanthropy Day breakfast in Wilmington, one was given to kids who didn’t have to raise a penny.
High school students from around the state who collected more than 6,000 books for the pediatric unit of ChristianaCare hospital were honored on Tuesday at the DuPont Country Club.
The members of the Young Friends of ChristianaCare held a months-long book drive, collecting books of all kinds to be donated for pediatric patients at the hospital. Anytime a child visits the hospital, they can browse a special room filled with hundreds of books and take one home with them when they are discharged.
The group, which now includes 50 high school student volunteers, was recognized with a Youth in Philanthropy Award at Tuesday’s ceremony along with other outstanding industry professionals (to follow).
Four students – Sarah Greenberg, Harry Saridakis and Sander Saridakis, all seniors at Tower Hill School, and Danny Johnson, a junior at Mount Sophia Academy in Newark, volunteered to take time off from school to attend the breakfast and represent the Young Friends group.
The book drive was the fourth project in as many years that the Young Friends tackled as a way to give back to their community – focusing specifically on sick children undergoing treatment at ChristianaCare.
In addition to devising fundraising projects – complete with goals, timetables and a communications and marketing plan – the students also meet four evenings a year to hear from representatives at ChristianaCare who provide a peek inside the business of Delaware’s largest employer.
It was at one of these meetings when the Young Friends last year learned from hospital personnel that the average family with children in Delaware may only have five children’s books in their home.
“That statistic was pretty disheartening to us because we know that reading to children is very important — that it can help with literacy, knowledge, and overall success,” said Sander Saridakis. “So we all agreed that would be a fantastic initiative to undertake last year so that kids could take a book for free any time they visited ChristianaCare. But honestly, we were surprised we managed to collect 6,000 books.”
Since the program’s launch in 2016, students have helped raise $15,000 to support organizations like First State School, Camp FRESH and Christiana Care’s Emergency Services for Special Needs Fund.
Johnson, who hopes to be a doctor, says he enthusiastically joined the Young Friends of ChristianaCare three years ago and finds the philanthropic program to be eye-opening in a number of ways.
“It’s a mix of fundraising and learning about new enterprises and how simple nonprofit initiatives can make a real difference. And I also have made lots of new friends and connections outside of school,” he said.
In the four years Greenberg has participated, she says she has learned a great deal about the healthcare system, the philanthropy that supports it, and some of the key programs the hospital offers.
“At the most recent meeting, we learned about the impacts of vaping and teen health and how the hospital is teaching teens about how to keep a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives,” said Greenberg. “And with each philanthropy project, we work with different departments within the hospital system. So, that’s been very educational as well,” she said.
Harry Saridakis said that each year the group listens to the needs of various constituencies at the hospital and tries to come up with a volunteer project that will benefit children at the hospital in some way. He and seven other students blanketed the Tower Hill community with announcements, flyers and emails about the book drive, helping them collect 700 books.
But what Harry might appreciate most are nuggets of industry knowledge that he would have never known were it not for his volunteer efforts with the Young Friends group.
“For the past four years, I have enjoyed being introduced to many parts of ChristianaCare. We have learned about the ER, have tried out the surgery simulation tools, toured the innovation center, where we engaged with health professionals as they described the future direction of medicine and how information is delivered to patients, especially through the development of apps. I was surprised to hear about the high rates of physician burnout, and I found the financial side of the hospital to be very interesting,” said Harry Saridakis.
Other awardees at the American Association of Fundraising Professionals, Delaware – Brandywine Chapter’s National Philanthropy Day included Denni Ferrara for her work and passion as the founder of the Leukemia Research Foundation of Delaware; Mary Bowler for 40 years of serving in a variety of leadership roles, most recently at the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware; Janine G. Sorbello for raising more than $3 million for the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s Superstars in Education Program; and Concordville Subaru for their ongoing support of Nemours/Alfred .I. du Pont Hospital for Children.