A 13-year-old from Mililani, Hawaii is being honored for encouraging youth to host Christmas celebrations for children in need and to initiate a variety of youth volunteer opportunities.
Rylee Brooke Kamahele grew up volunteering with her parents in an at-risk youth program, but at 8 she wanted to start making an impact on her own. “We had to fight to get me involved,” she said, “because the programs didn’t want to take care of the children during community service.”
But with a lot of persistence and hard work, she gradually persuaded charities to let her volunteer with them, and they recruited other young people to join her.
From there, Rylee started an organization called “Love is a Verb” that hosted numerous beach clean-ups, hosted Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless, and entertained children at shelters. During Thanksgiving week, Rylee and her team shared 320 bucks with NFL running back Marshawn Lynch.
But the funniest project of all is their “Secret Santa Project” which makes Christmas brighter for kids who need Christmas cheer. Run donation drives and raise money to provide gifts to children staying in shelters, and then host parties for them.
Since then, this project has expanded to include three shelters and a youth program, offering more than 300 children a memorable day with food, gifts, games, shaved ice trucks, and slush machines.
All of his initiatives, including environmental awareness campaigns, come under the umbrella of “The Catalyst Club,” an organization he founded to prepare young people to be agents of change.
Throughout the pandemic, Rylee has continued her volunteer efforts and this holiday season continues to distribute food to families in need, distributing 2,500 boxes of food every two weeks.
Rylee is also running a donation drive for a non-verbal toddler who needs an iPad to communicate, raising money for the iPad, the programs he needs, and a protective case.
Named one of America’s Best Young Volunteers by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 2020, it’s young people like Rylee Brooke who remind us of what vacations are all about.
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