The Teen Heroes column is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit http://dillerteenawards.org.
(JTA) — Shortly before her bat mitzvah in 2010, Morgan Davidson made a promise to her grandmother stricken with lymphoma that she would do whatever she could to help others with the disease.
With her mother’s assistance, Davidson soon organized a fundraiser she dubbed “Cuts for a Cure.” For a monetary donation, she and others gave haircuts, held a silent auction and provided a cafe.
“I thought that I’d be happy raising $5,000,” said Davidson, now 17. But the one-day event raised over $28,000, which she donated to City of Hope, a cancer hospital in California, and Be the Match, a global bone marrow donor registry.
The experience, she said, “sparked a real passion in me, and I fell in love with giving back.”
Davidson would channel this passion into starting the Ambassadors for Hope Club at her high school. The group of approximately 30 fellow students organizes events and fundraisers throughout the school year, like gingerbread house-making, bone marrow donor registry drives and a Zumba-a-Thon.
In the two years since she started the club, Davidson said it has raised over $8,000 for the City of Hope and Be the Match.
In 2014, Davidson was awarded a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award for her work with the Ambassadors for Hope Club.
A senior at New Jewish Community High School in West Hills, Calif., Davidson has been applying to colleges across the country and plans to study hospitality management and culinary arts. After she graduates high school, the Ambassadors for Hope Club will be in the hands of her younger brother, a high school freshman.
Davidson said she is content with the legacy she leaves behind.
“It was my mission to help other teens find their passion doing tikkun olam as more than just a [school] requirement, but something that you want to be doing,” she said. “The biggest lesson that I learned is that passion and dedication go hand in hand.”
JTA spoke to Davidson recently about the qualities that are important in a hero, her weekly meaningful Jewish experience and the person she’d most like to tell about the Ambassadors of Hope Club.
JTA: What do you think are the important qualities of a hero?
Davidson: Leadership has to be a quality, not only for you but for others. If you can’t lead people, then there’s no point. Also, having passion and dedication.
Can you share with us a meaningful Jewish experience that you’ve had?
I’m a Sunday school teacher, and that’s a huge part of my life. To be able to teach kindergarteners something that I’m so involved in and passionate about is very meaningful to me.
What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
I love Purim! It’s a very fun holiday and really a chance to lighten up. I like to be able to dress up and I love baking hamantaschen.
What other things do you like to do for fun?
I’m a dancer and co-captain of the varsity dance team at school. I have two little brothers, and spending time with them is fun. I love being in the kitchen and cooking, and spending quality time with my friends.
If you could have lunch or coffee with anyone and tell him or her about the Ambassadors of Hope Club, who would it be?
My grandmother. Just to tell her that I kept my promise of helping others in her shoes would mean a lot to me.
What advice would you give to other teens interested in starting a social action project?
You can do anything you set your mind to times 10. Don’t give up, really want it and really work for it.
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