Each year, the Helen Diller Family Foundation awards $36,000 to each of fifteen Jewish U.S. teens for exceptional leadership and engagement in service projects to make the world a better place. These are the stories of this year’s Los Angeles-based beneficiaries of Helen Diller’s philanthropic legacy.
Prior to her passing earlier this year, Helen Diller lived to support social responsibility, medical research, cultural and artistic endeavors, and the revitalization of her Jewish heritage. Now, her vision lives on in each recipient of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards. The selected teens embody tikkun olam, the Jewish notion of repairing the world, and have been tasked with carrying out self-imagined social projects that reflect this concept.
Projects range from opening new doors for underprivileged youth, combatting school bullying, and engaging peers in social good campaigns to supporting families, communities, and our environment in impactful new ways. Each requires a unique perspective on society’s most pressing issues and a practical approach to tackling them.
We are proud to announce the local teens who are utilizing the Diller Family Foundation’s support to make a difference in our city:
Emmi Eisner (Encino): Play It Forward (PIF)
Emmi was inspired to create Play It Forward (PIF) when she thought back to a field trip she took at age 11 to a school in L.A. County with a limited inventory of sports equipment. PIF is an organization that fulfills underserved schools’ sports equipment wish lists, providing students with the confidence, determination, and team work that sports activity helps to develop. Emily also helps build physical education curricula by offering schools the necessary reference materials on current standard lesson plans. Since starting four years ago, PIF has raised $80,000 in cash and in-kind donations of sporting goods, provided enough equipment to serve approximately 10,000 students in 20 schools, and inspired 50 teen volunteers to join Emmi in giving back to the community.
Riley Gantt (Sherman Oaks): Rainbow Pack
Also inspired by a visit to a low-income school as a young girl, Riley founded Rainbow Pack, an organization that provides underserved elementary school students with backpacks of supplies they need to succeed as learners. She took the initiative to meet with a social worker to talk through the impact of basic school supplies on a child’s ability to learn and keep up with their studies. Riley followed up with bake sales, letter-writing campaigns, garage sales, and rallies to ultimately establish Rainbow Pack. The organization has since distributed more than 5,500 backpacks and raised $55,000 in cash and in-kind donations to help close the achievement gap for less-fortunate elementary school students. Riley aims to raise $40,000 in 2015 to help an additional 4,000 students and is planning an awareness campaign to educate communities about the link between supplies and learning potential.
The honorees will be recognized for their outstanding leadership and commitment to repairing the world at an annual luncheon on August 24th in San Francisco. They’ll be joined by their supporters, community members who share their passion for community service and philanthropy, and exciting speakers who will share their own personal accounts of how tikkun olam has impacted their lives.
Congratulations to Emmi, Riley, and the other 13 recipients on receiving the Helen Diller Family Foundation Tikkun Olam Award. It’s incredible what they’ve accomplished at such a young age — we can’t wait to see what else is in store!
For more information, please contact Beth Freishtat at (323) 761-8346 or BFreishtat@JewishLA.org.