Read about Jessica Leving's
Kids Autism Research Effort.
Jessica received a grant to create and publish a children’s book and form an organization in an effort to educate young people about autism and acceptance.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work
did/do you do?
I received a grant from Youth Venture to help me start an organization that published a kids' educational book about autism, raises money for autism research and is developing a website.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Jessica: Kids Who K.A.R.E. -- the Kids Autism Research Effort, based in Highland Park, Illinois.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Jessica: The mission of Kids Who K.A.R.E. is to educate young people about autism in order to facilitate and encourage among them acceptance and understanding of their autistic and otherwise mentally challenged peers. It is our belief that the key to tolerance is knowledge, and it is our hope that as a result of this venture, in the next generation we will be a little closer to finally unlocking this great door. Kids Who K.A.R.E also works to promote autism awareness among all age groups, and actively raises money for autism research.
Kids Who K.A.R.E. wrote, illustrated and published a children's educational picture book about autism to be presented at local elementary schools. Several books are donated to each school following the presentation. Moreover, the books are for sale to the general public, and proceeds from those sales go towards our other projects, such as making an informational, kid-friendly web-site about autism, which is our current undertaking. We are also trying to raise money so that we can publish another book about general disabilities and accepting differences. Our long-term goal is to eventually publish a series of books that share this theme.
What inspired you to get involved?
Jessica: My younger brother, Billy, was diagnosed with autism at age two.
How did you first get involved? Through school? Your parents? Some other means? Give us some details.
Jessica: Originally, I started with a small fundraiser supported by my middle school when I was in seventh grade. I later saw an article about youthventure.org in the newspaper and decided to apply for a grant.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Jessica: It is great to know that I am doing everything I can to make a difference for my brother and other people with disabilities.
What is/was the hardest part?
Jessica: Getting things done! I work part time, and I am in advanced classes at my high school, in addition to being on the school paper and in millions of after-school clubs, so finding time to work on my project is sometimes hard.
What was the biggest surprise?
Jessica: How easy it was to find seed money. I sent in the application on a whim, and when Youth Venture contacted me, I was shocked.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience, and how have you changed as a result?
Jessica: I learned that if you want something done, you really need to just go for it and take the first step. No one is going to just show up at your door one day and say, "Hey, here's everything you need to change the world," but it is not at all difficult to find support and resources. All you have to do is look for them -- at school, online, and from your friends and family.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Jessica: Go for it! Don't ever let yourself think something is impossible or too insignificant. Also, write down all ideas that you have so you don't forget them, and don't hesitate to mention your ideas to other people. You never know who's sister's friend's cousin's next door neighbor might have a really helpful connection.
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