The holiday season is a special time filled with family, friends, good food, and warm hearts. There’s an undeniable sort of magic in the air that harvests a desire to give back. All throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season, enCourage Kids is extremely thankful for all those who give back to us.

Our supporters give in many different ways – some donate their time by volunteering at events, some donate funds directly to our programs, and some create their own fundraising events. But what we find the most incredible of all is the amount of kids who take these initiatives to give back directly to our enCourage kids.

Take 14 year old Isabelle Pipher. When Isabelle was presented with the “Making History” assignment in her Theology class, she knew that her project was going to be about kids with cancer. As a monthly volunteer at Blythedale Children’s Hospital, it was a natural fit for Isabelle to “make history” by giving back to a cause she felt so passionate about.

Isabelle set up a hot chocolate stand in a busy area of her town to raise money for her project, but she didn’t know where her money would be best spent for the pediatric patients she wanted to help until she found enCourage Kids.

“I finally found the perfect gifts to give when I read about the Send a Bear program. I thought it was such an amazing idea to give kids something that they will really use, cherish, and love while in the hospital,” Isabelle shared.

Because of Isabelle, we were able to send extra cuddly teddy bears to pediatric patients last holiday season.

School projects aren’t the only way these amazing kids have helped others in need this year. Some have made their gifts a little more personal.

Taylor Kozak’s family has been a part of our Escapes program for several years. Her brother Jake was born with cerebral palsy, which has left him confined to his wheelchair and taken away from his participation in many normal childhood activities.

“enCourage Kids Foundation is one of the only places my brother can just be “my brother” and not the boy in a wheelchair or the kid in the hospital,” Taylor explained. “He gets to enjoy himself, he meets new friends and spends time with old friends too – he has fun and he smiles. I love when he smiles.”

Every year since 2012, Taylor has used her birthday as an opportunity to ask for donations to enCourage Kids in lieu of presents. In this selfless act, Taylor helps us provide more smiles to Jake, and others just like him.

Much like birthdays, most kids ask for the latest and greatest toys for Christmas – but not David and Anand. Last year their Christmas list was short and simple – instead of gifts they asked for donations to be made to our programs.

The boys learned about enCourage Kids through their mom, Meena, who is the medical director to the pediatric emergency department at Orange Regional Medical Center. Meena told David and Anand about the wonderful programs we provide to the children at ORMC and instantly had them hooked.

Through their holiday fundraising initiative the boys raised nearly $1,200. With their generosity, they have helped us give smiles to countless children in pediatric care units this year.

But the smiles don’t stop there. As a member of our Escapes program for several years, enCourage Kid Kolby knows the impact and importance of our programs first hand. That is why it is so important for her to give back.

Kolby has volunteered at numerous hospital parties, handed out teddy bears to hospitalized children, and attended multiple Escapes to spread smiles to other enCourage Kids.

Each year, Kolby and her friends volunteer at our annual summer Six Flags Escape in Albany and the annual Giving Table at Crossgates Mall during the holidays.

Because Kolby has enjoyed enCourage Kids events for so many years, she wants to make it special for the other kids in the program. Kolby is a perfect example of the overwhelming generosity of kids helping kids.

We are so grateful for these amazing kids who have selflessly given back to our organization through the years! We cannot thank you enough for your support and for helping us spread smiles to the children who need them the most.