by Sundari Johansen & Molly Yuska
Sometimes it’s great to be reminded of how dedicated and caring kids and teens can be, and how rewarding it is to give kids the opportunity to participate in volunteer service from a young age. Taking families on that journey is really what Project Giving Kids is all about.
We recently sat down for a video chat with Aidan Disney, a 14-year-old basketball lover and active community volunteer in Los Angeles, and his mom, Sheri. What’s remarkable about Aidan isn’t that his great-grandfather, Roy O. Disney, was Walt Disney’s brother. It’s that at such a young age, he’s already made a pretty big impact.
“I got it from her,” Aidan says about his mom, Sheri, when asked why he has such a heart for helping others. Sheri felt it was crucial to get Aidan actively involved in volunteering and philanthropy from a young age. She wanted to be intentional about creating a culture of giving in their family. That’s why before Aidan even hit elementary school, he had already delivered his birthday presents to pediatric patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. From there, it grew to annual participation with PGK partner Big Sunday and their annual big weekend of giving — something they still do! And when it came time for his bar mitzvah, Aidan dedicated this milestone event to Stand Up to Cancer, a charity that helped his family when his big sister, Charlee, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 20, raising an astounding $12,000!
As a fourth grader passionate about both basketball and charitable work, Aidan was chosen by a friend to take over RePlayce With Love, a community service project at his school in North Hollywood that collects new and used sports equipment and gives it to children in need. With his mom’s active support, the program has thrived under his leadership.
“My favorite part is the feeling you get that you know you’ve helped someone. The warm feeling that you have inside of you, knowing that somebody has a better life now because you helped them,” says Aidan.
Now he’s starting high school, passing the reins of RePlayce With Love on to another student, but he has no intention of slowing down his efforts for others. In fact, as he gets older, it is clear Aidan is developing a deeper understanding of just how impactful his efforts – and those of others – can be. He has become passionate about making positive change, actively supporting the work of the Human Rights Campaign, the I Have a Dream Foundation, Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation’s Dribble For a Cure, Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND), and other organizations working toward racial and economic justice. “One thing that I do really believe in is equality, and I want to see that in the world, [but] I don’t… I can do something, I want to keep being part of it.”
Aidan has seen first hand the impact that even one dedicated person, and one dedicated family, can have by simply showing up. And he wants other teens to know that’s all you have to do.
“A lot of teens each have their own passions and hobbies, and see the wrongs they want to right in the world. If you want to see a change in the world, you have to be the change… They can make a difference, no matter what.”
Having recently joined the Mid Valley Chapter of National League of Young Men, a leadership and service organization for young men and their mothers during the high school years, there is no doubt this Disney will do a lot more good in the years ahead and leave quite a legacy of his own.