By Sara Blau
It’s been almost a year now since I received the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award for Game Changers New York (GCNY), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that I founded in 2016. Game Changers’ mission is to collect and distribute sports equipment to children in need in the US and globally. As of now, we have nearly two dozen partner organizations across the United States, Israel, Nicaragua, and Kenya. I’m so glad that I have the chance to reflect on the opportunities that have been provided to me because of the Diller Teen Awards.
Since the Shabbaton in San Francisco that I attended last August, I have connected with other Diller Teen Awards recipients to grow our own projects, and to impact others as well. For example, past awardee Isaiah Granet founded San Diego Chill, an organization dedicated to teaching children with disabilities how to play ice hockey. Since GCNY connects with partner organizations to distribute sports equipment, I thought it could not have been a better match! Soon after the Shabbaton, we two Diller Teen awardees connected, talked business, and accomplished amazing things. From New York, GCNY shipped a ton of great ice hockey equipment to San Diego. Now, many more kids in San Diego have the opportunity to play ice hockey and improve upon their skills. This is what you call a “Diller success story.”
The people that I met at the Shabbaton have also served as amazing mentors for me. Since I will be going to Israel for a gap year at the Hartman Institute and then attending the University of Maryland Smith School of Business, I needed advice about how I could continue to grow GCNY and stay involved, while balancing my other commitments. I found it especially helpful when the past recipients who attended the Shabbaton spoke on a panel during the event about how their projects or organizations were doing and how they expanded with the help of Diller. I also needed help with my succession plan. I have a really great teen board, however many of the kids involved will also be graduating this semester. So much valuable information from other awardees was coming at me from all directions at high speed, but with the help of a pen and pad, and the people around me, I took it all in. I went home with a clear mind about the next steps for GCNY and felt ready to get back to work.
So that’s exactly what I did. I worked on training younger teens who could volunteer and eventually become board members, expanding our New Jersey chapter, and planning a long-term growth strategy for the organization. For GCNY, fundraising can be very difficult, but thanks to the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, one major, impactful move we made was to purchase large, steel receptacle bins to place at sports facilities across Long Island. Now, we collect even more sports equipment than ever. This was a great investment for GCNY and one that will last for years to come.
It’s certainly not an everyday occurrence when a 17 year-old kid and 14 other amazing teens are given $36,000 each to improve upon their tikkun olam work. This is in fact quite astonishing and every time I think about it — which is fairly frequently — I become more and more grateful. I cannot fathom how I was selected from a huge pool of applicants to be welcomed into an incredible network of talented, thoughtful, caring, and giving people. Now that I have been accepted into this group, I know that I will be involved for my entire life and continue to help those in need in various ways.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer for GCNY, or learning more about us, please visit Game Changers New York. We are very appreciative of all donations, which you can make here. We look forward to hearing from you!