Elizabeth (Liz) Atkins was a joy to everyone she touched during the all-too-brief 23 years of her life. Her family and friends deeply loved her intellectual curiosity, her beautiful voice, and most of all her gentle spirit. Referred to playfully as Mother Teresa Liz, she was a fierce supporter of the less fortunate and those who had to deal with the hardships of being excluded. Liz herself had to deal with the most profound hardship, though she never complained and her focus was always on others, not on her own condition. She was diagnosed and treated for a brain tumor at age 2, but overcame her deficits to become an honor student and went on to graduate from Sarah Lawrence College, despite developing a new cancer in her junior year.
To continue to honor Liz’s life and her desire to help those in need, we are establishing The Elizabeth Atkins Presents Fund in partnership with Aaron's Presents, an innovative grants program designed specifically to empower children in 8th grade or below to dream up and carry out a positive project that benefits others. In the process, children learn that they have something unique and valuable to give to the world at every age and every stage of life, and that giving of themselves for the benefit of others brings happiness, healing and purpose. Liz’s legacy will live on through these children and the numerous people positively impacted by their creative and thoughtful acts.
Children apply for an Aaron’s Presents grant with an idea for a project that will help others, and the organization provides up to $500 worth of materials and services as well as the mentoring and guidance needed to maximize successful completion of the their project.
For example, one sixth grade grant recipient started a chess program at the Youth Development Organization, an after-school enrichment program in Lawrence, MA, and taught 6 elementary-aged kids how to play and enjoy chess. Those kids have taught other kids, and the chess sets are used every afternoon at that program.
A third grade student partnered with a homeless shelter to provide Halloween costumes for children living in transitional housing.
100% of this fund will go to purchasing materials and services to support the children and their projects. Aaron's Presents organization will post links to each project funded by The Elizabeth Atkins Presents Fund so that you can learn more about the kids who are being touched by Liz’s life and how their projects are making a positive difference in the world. The fund will have no time limit – you can contribute at any time. An average project costs $250, so we have an opportunity to touch many people through this honorary fund. Contributions of any amount are appreciated.
Thank you for your support,
Rick and Gerri Atkins
Thinking of Liz February 26, 2022
Dear everyone involved with The Elizabeth Atkins Presents Fund,
I am deeply regretful that I haven't been able to send more regular updates. I know that this fund is very special to each of you, and I want you to know that I feel that as well and not many days go by when I don't think of this person named Liz, Lizzie, Elizabeth Atkins who was so loved and has somehow become a part of my life through the stories you have told me over these years. It is amazing to me that I feel so connected to someone I never had the privilege of meeting on earth. Aaron's life and the daily miracles I experience with Aaron's Presents has only solidified my belief that there is more going on than meets the eye and that our strongest, most lasting connections are at the soul level.
In any case, I am planning on sending more frequent, shorter updates this year to let you know more often how many meaningful experiences you are all making possible for other young people through your continuation of this fund.
Recently we have been given the go-ahead to start bringing kids to play with kids living in a group home for 15 foster children. The foster children are between 6-11 years old and deal with a lot of social-emotional issues from various traumas and other conditions, but they LOVE when our kids come and just give them what they crave the most: love and positive undivided attention, especially from other youth.
For some reason, while painting with them last weekend and watching a couple other groups play with them this week and bringing and receiving such joy, I kept thinking of Liz. Something kept telling me that she would have loved these afternoons and human connections made, as well as the art and creative activities that our kids are often doing with the foster kids.
For privacy reasons, we can't get many pictures in the house, but here are some pictures of the AP kids who have been doing these projects:
Lowell 7th graders Brianna, Joicy and Kayla:
Lawrence 8th graders Ashley, Brianny, Lianna, Isamer and Dariel:
I'm so proud of all of the kids who are choosing to use and give their time and energy for the good of others, and I see firsthand that they get back in return even more than they give. And they just want to keep doing more and more. They give me hope everyday in an often tough, dark world. I know these experiences help them feel something that they don't often feel, and I know that changes them and how they view their role in the world one small bit at a time.
Thank you for believing in us but more importantly, in them. They need helping feeling their own value and purpose even more than ever right now.
I hope this finds you all well. Thank you for sharing Liz with me and all of us at AP.
With love always,