Unexpected gifts seem to be more precious in a holiday season that comes with a pandemic asterisk. And sometimes, the sweetest surprises come when the younger generation connects with the older generation to make holiday magic.
Say hello to 13-year-old Rylee Brooke Kamahele, who nurtured her gift of giving by volunteering with her parents in a program for at-risk youth. By age eight, she already had some big ideas. “We had to fight for me to get involved,” she said, “because programs didn’t want to babysit kids during community service.”
Fast-forward to 2020, where Rylee’s compassionate footprints are everywhere this holiday season.
Rylee started and heads up an organization called “Love Is A Verb,” based in her hometown of Mililani, Hawaii. The group has organized numerous beach cleanups, fed the homeless with Thanksgiving Day dinners, and entertained kids at shelters. Rylee and her team passed out 320 turkeys this Thanksgiving, with the help of former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch.
The Christmas spirit comes from Rylee’s “Secret Santa Project” – where she raises money through donation drives to provide gifts for kids staying in shelters, along with hosting holiday parties. The program serves three shelters and one homeless program, and it provided more than 300 kids with food, gifts (including gingerbread houses), games, shaved-ice trucks and slush machines this holiday season.
PS: She also organizes animal rescues during the year.
It’s understandable why her story resonates beyond Hawaii and she has become a nationally recognized youth volunteer.
“Volunteering, I feel, has always had a place in my heart,” she told hawaiinewsnow.com.
She also wants to inspire other youth to follow her lead.
“Find something that you absolutely love doing,” she said, “and pursue that.”