The Loukoumi Make A Difference Foundation united over 50,000 children across the country on National Make A Difference Day, October 22, 2016, as part of its annual Make A Difference With Loukoumi Project. Loukoumi (the lamb character from the Loukoumi children’s book series) and author Nick Katsoris also embarked on a school bus filled with children and supporters that day, all doing good deeds at various bus stops in the Westchester and Bronx NY area including The Westchester Children’s Museum, Fordham University, Finding Hope: The New Yonkers Animal Shelter and Holy Trinity Church in New Rochelle. The children wore orange “Make A Difference with Loukoumi” t-shirts as orange is the color of bullying prevention in honor of Loukoumi’s partnership with Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center. Make A Difference with Loukoumi is part of National Make A Difference Day sponsored annually by USA Weekend Magazine. The day unites over 3 million Americans each year. The Make A Difference With Loukoumi project is the recipient of a 2014 USA Weekend National Make A Difference Award.
The first stop on the 2016 Loukoumi Good Deed Bus Tour was at the Westchester Children’s Museum in Rye, NY where the Loukoumi Foundation debuted the new Make A Difference with Loukoumi exhibit, sponsored by Michael and Robin Psaros and KPS Capital Partners, LP. The Exhibit is a learning library where families can learn about the lessons in the Loukoumi books in furtherance of the Foundation’s message of “teaching children to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.”
The book “Growing Up With Loukoumi” was also read in honor of the installation of the new Loukoumi magnetic wall in the exhibit, where kids can discuss their career choices while placing different hats on the characters in the Loukoumi book series. The next phase of the Loukoumi exhibit will include a Storytime Kiosk where children can record their own good deed stories. On Make A Difference with Loukoumi Day museum visitors made caring cards for patients at The Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center in Yonkers, NY and brought a new or lightly used book to donate to kids for literacy awareness with the assistance of The Philoptochos from The Church Of Our Saviour in Rye, NY.
For the second year in a row, Loukoumi’s second bus stop was at Fordham University where during the Fordham/Georgetown Football game, the Foundation joined the Fordham Baseball team by collecting equipment for a baseball program at schools in need including The Bethel School and the Merlene Ottey High School on the island of Jamaica. Players will also record instructional videos for the students and in conjunction with the Joey Foundation the equipment will be shipped to the schools. Joey Foundation Founder Ann Torcivia is planning a visit to the schools in the Spring.
The third stop was at Building Hope: The New Yonkers Animal Shelter, where kids were greeted by Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano. Children riding the bus arrived with all types of supplies to donate to the shelter and were treated to a tour of the facility.
The final stop of the day was hosted by the community at Holy Trinity Church in New Rochelle. The stop was an end of the day good deed celebration with a DJ, food and tables with over twenty schools and groups showcasing their good deed projects benefiting their favorite charities including:
- The Eastchester Goodie Girls lead by Amanda Dunleavy who sold baked goods for The Susan Komen Foundation.
- The Loukoumi Baseball Project: Eastchester’s Dean and Julia Katsoris and their team sold Rainbow Loom baseball bracelets in Mets and Yankees colors to raise money for baseball supplies for schools in need.
- Vincent and Siena Versaci of Eastchester sold homemade jars of spiced blueberry preserves for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and The Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem.
- Ava Tsapatsaris & her Relay for Life Team sold jewelry for the American Cancer Society. The Eastchester native has raised over $11,000 to date for the charity.
- BOSCES & Got Comfort Dog project: Girl Scout Kelly brought together Got Comfort! and PNW BOCES bringing Comfort dogs to people in need.
- Bronxville’s The Chapel School sponsored a table to make placemats for a homeless shelter and to decorate pillow cases for those in need; canned goods were donated too!
- The William Spyropoulos School from Flushing, NY held their NY Cares Coat Drive for the second year in a row.
- A second table collected clothing for the Eastchester Middle School clothing drive
- Demetrios School from Astoria showcased their Bracelet Project benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and presented a check for $2500 plus a beautiful book of artwork for the patients to St. Jude Senior Philanthropic Advisor Tim Bayly, who inspired the crowd.
- Vasilios Pavlides representing the Anne Hutchinson School also presented Bayly with caring cards from two classes at the school plus $1 donations from all 60 students for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The Anne Hutchinson School also organized “Operation Sandwich” schoolwide where they donated hundreds of sandwiches to Grace’s Church Soup Kitchen in White Plains.
- The Thirst Project: Katia Barker sold water bottles and spoke with guests about this non-profit organization focused on solving the world’s water crisis by drilling fresh water wells in Africa.
- The Ionian Village Relief Fund was supported by the sale of Loukoumi books.
Since 2009, Loukoumi has rallied thousands of children to make a difference in their own special way on one day. The project started with the release of the book, Loukoumi’s Good Deeds (Narrated on CD by Jennifer Aniston), which teaches children the importance of doing good deeds, and that by doing so you can make a difference in your life and the lives of others.
“It was really special to narrate “Loukoumi’s Good Deeds” on CD,” said Jennifer Aniston, “not only because of how inspirational it is for kids, but because it was an opportunity to work with my Dad. I also loved that it was supporting a personal cause of mine, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I am thrilled that the Loukoumi books are continuing to make a difference in the lives of children through this wonderful Make A Difference Day program.”
The Loukoumi Foundation also united many organizations under its Make A Difference umbrella, who partook in various projects throughout the country including: The National Philoptochos Society, Kiwanis, Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center, Matthew McConaughey’s Just Keep Livin’ Foundation, Chefs for Humanity, The Joey Foundation, EIMAI Center for Emerging Young Leaders, The Westchester Children’s Museum, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, The Houston Food Bank, The St. Paul’s Society and the NYPD, The Utica Zoo, and schools nationwide.
According to Loukoumi Foundation President Nick Katsoris, “The beauty of this project is that our Foundation becomes a Foundation for all children and adults as it encourages them to make a difference in their own special way, without borders, through projects that they enjoy, benefitting charities and organizations that mean something to them.”
In October 2014 the Loukoumi Foundation produced a national TV Special titled “Make A Difference With Loukoumi,” encouraging children to make a difference. For more on National Make A Difference Day please visit: www.makeadifferenceday.com and for more about Make A Difference with Loukoumi please visit: www.LoukoumiFoundation.org.
Contact: [email protected]
Photo Credit: Jillian Nelson