Updates

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,

Leah


Complete List of Contributors to date April 13, 2020

Ahern-DeFillippi, Jane


Atkins, Lara


Atkins, Micaela


Atkins, Ruth


Atkins, the late Elizabeth


Atkins, Eli


Atkins, David


Atkins, Garrett


Atkins, Rick and Gerri


Atkins, Natasha and Scott Wing


Chitty, Mary


Cohen, Marya


Colton, Maureen and the late Skip Atkins


Downey, Sharon


Foti, Peter and Christine


Gennaco, Greg


Gennaco, Jack and Chris


Gennaco, Frances


Gerson, Lani and Joseph


Hashimoto, Dean


Joyce, Emma


Kim, (unknown first name)


Lyons Hunter, Mary


Pannell, Gabriel


Rooney, Thomas


Taylor, Allison


Wing, Erik

April 2020 Updates April 12, 2020

Dear Friends and Family of Elizabeth “Liz” Atkins,


I’m writing to reach out and say that I am thinking of all of you during this difficult time. It’s hard to wrap my head around a crisis of this enormity that has so many unknowns and affects the entire world, let alone our country and individual communities. I am very concerned about what the next weeks will bring.


On top of the Covid-19 crisis, the Atkins family and larger “family” of friends have experienced so much loss this year with the passing of Elizabeth Atkins and Skip Atkins. I had the honor of meeting both of them and feeling their kindness and love of family firsthand. They were always so kind in their support of our work, frequently telling me that Liz would have loved seeing all the good that the kids’ were spreading around their communities, and how creative they were in coming up with their ideas to help and serve others. I think of you all often.


I regret that I haven’t been able to put together an update for you all sooner than this. However, I wanted to finally send you a list of the beautiful moments of caring and kindness that kids have created with your support. I have posted a complete listing of all contributors to date here, as well as some pictures from the funded projects this past year in the Gallery (Jan 2019 – Present are the last 13 pictures).


Projects included:


o   4th grade girls from Andover putting together care baskets for cancer patients (one of their moms is actively fighting cancer),


o   A group of 4th graders from Andover designing a poster for a fundraiser for the Lowell Humane Society and bringing donations to the shelter,


o   8th grade boys from Lowell taking foster children to Altitudes trampoline park for an afternoon of fun,


o   Alumni from Lowell, Lawrence and Andover spending an afternoon playing with foster children living at a group home,


o   Several groups of kids from Lawrence and Lowell volunteering at the MSPCA—Nevins Farm animal shelter—most for the first time,


o   A high school Alum buying tickets for several peers to support a fundraiser for a couple who are helping abandoned children in Liberia,


o   A group of 8th graders from Lawrence making rainbow loom bracelets to sell at a craft fair in Pelham, NH to benefit Lazarus House,


o   A family shelter in Lawrence, 2 7th graders from Lowell helping people who lost everything in a house fire,


o   5 8th graders from Lawrence going to a foster home and making Halloween crafts, painting and playing with the kids,


o   An 8th grader from Lowell running a contest to give out Yhumi water bottles (carbon negative) to spread awareness about climate change and the environment,


o   A 10th grade Alum from Lawrence helping her cousins who recently lost their father, and


o   2 4th graders from Lawrence giving out food and warm clothes to the homeless living outside in the winter.


A few organizational updates for you that I will also be sending out to the larger community soon as well:


1) For now, we have put our regular program on hold during this time of social distancing, and have turned our focus toward our AP Community Relief Efforts, supporting any of the 1,300+ kids and families, especially in the low-income areas of Lawrence, Lowell and Lynn where about 80% of our participants live, in any way that we can. We are reaching out to as many of our Alumni and parents as possible, and hope to be able to help in small ways as needs come to our attention, such as with groceries, supplies, small bills, and educational/creative/enrichment materials that can help our kids cope and stay productive.


2) Our youth are so eager to get back to doing projects with us around the community, and we are continuing to allow them to initiate simple projects that can be done from afar, such as bringing groceries to someone, having a meal delivered to a hospital, sending art supplies to a foster home, etc. One thing I know for sure is that after this has passed, there will be no shortage of ways to give and help their communities heal and recover from this experience and loss. When that time comes, we look forward to being able to help them channel their emotions and energy into these efforts and realize what an important role they have to play in bringing us all back to full health. They will need that more than ever.


3) A few of our grantors have given us General Operating grants, rather than program-specific grants, to help sustain us through this time, which we are very grateful for!


4) Our Board has approved a Covid-19 Compensation Policy continuing to pay all of our Mentors through June (they typically do not work much in the summers) and our part-time administrative staff continuously. I know that everyone has appreciated this policy, as most of our Mentors are college students or working in lower-wage nonprofit organizations and have depended on this work to pay their bills.


Please feel free to get in touch with me for any reason, and if there is a way for us help or support you at any time, please don’t hesitate to call!


We love you all, and can imagine all the ways that Liz, and Skip and Elizabeth, would be wanting to help right now--in medicine, creativity, entertaining children, and much more. We feel all of their passion and compassion powering us all the more through this time.


Thank you for all your love and generosity, and please stay healthy and be careful!


Sending you love always,


Leah




Leah Okimoto, Executive Director

(978) 809-5487

[email protected]

December 2018 Updates January 01, 2020

Dear Family and Friends of Elizabeth Atkins,


I’m writing to thank you once again for being such an inspiring part of Aaron’s Presents over the past 3 ½ years, in memory and honor of Liz Atkins.


It has been a great privilege to carry out this work and hold her giving, loving, joyful spirit in my heart everyday.


I put together the attached slideshow of the projects and Alumni activities that your generous gifts have made possible over the past year. I cannot thank you enough, as I have seen the impact that they have had on so many young people. You can see the spark in their eyes—that special look that only comes from feeling like we have purpose, potential and a meaningful role in the world.


Many of these kids are up against a lot—poverty, lack of food and basic needs, lack of adult support, lack of transportation and extracurricular opportunities, racism, immigration anxiety, low-performing schools, unstable home situations, and on and on—and to have people come to them and want to invest real resources and time in their ideas, and to be able to do something that benefits others and be the “givers” seems like a small thing, but is actually life- and perspective-altering.


One of the projects you helped to fund this year was featured on WCVB Channel 5 this fall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPmFcyGGGYc


Here is the main page for the fund for your reference, and I have included a link to this slideshow and the TV piece on the page:


https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/ODAw


One of the highlights of this year was having a group of the Atkins family members attend our Celebration at Phillips Academy in June. I hope it can be an annual tradition to be able to meet some of you in person and have you feel the kids’ joyful empowered energy for yourselves.


Thank you again for your support, encouragement and love! It has made a world of difference, and we are so excited for the growth we are planning for in the next few years to reach more kids!


With my very best wishes for a happy new year to you all,


Leah

December 2017 Updates December 01, 2019



Season’s Greetings!


Each of you has contributed to this very meaningful Presents Fund in memory and honor of Liz Atkins.


Since Rick established this fund in May 2015, it has grown steadily to $7,278.82, and has supported 28 projects involving approximately 84 children ages 7-14 and benefiting an estimated 1,500 individuals and animals in their communities and beyond! It’s quite incredible to see how many lives have been touched by your generosity, love and devotion. For me, having personally worked with many of these kids and seen the projects firsthand, I can honestly tell you that these experiences have meant the world to them at a pivotal stage in their development when they are searching for evidence that their lives matter and that their unique qualities can make the world better.


We have put together a slideshow of the projects that your fund has made possible in 2016 and 2017.


Here is a link to the slideshow: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_9bMOYH4jUhnkC2wPBCEyztZMxbyLftd/view?usp=sharing


And here is a link to the fund’s current page: https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/ODAw


I am so grateful to be connected with all of you. Your messages of encouragement, sharing of your family stories, and support of this work over the past 2.5 years has kept me going, and thinking of Liz, as I also remember Aaron and others missed so dearly, inspires me everyday.


Have a wonderful holiday, and I wish you all only the best in the new year.


With love,


Leah

November 2016 Update November 01, 2019



Dear Friends and Family of
Elizabeth Atkins,


We have created a “clipbook” depicting the projects that have been funded thus far by The Elizabeth Atkins Presents Fund. There are still unallocated funds, which will make more projects possible this year. We plan to keep adding posters to this book every half year or so. Please view the book here: http://cliptomize.com/Clipbook/View/383241?secret=r43br4k82h


It is amazing and moving for me to go through this collection and think about all of the kids that I know have experienced something simple yet profound at a pivotal stage in their development of empathy, compassion, sense of purpose and their ability to truly connect with other human beings. I know firsthand the impact that you have had on these children, and I have heard from them and their parents about how their outlook, perspective and sense of agency has changed significantly.


I invite you to come visit our program in action in the Merrimack Valley or North Shore if you are interested. We would love to introduce you to the kids you have empowered! I also welcome any questions or suggestions you may have. I regret that I have not been in more regular communication. Capacity is the biggest challenge for any small nonprofit, and there are things like this that take longer for us to execute, even though they remain high on our priority list! Thank you for your patience.


Until we meet again, please know that I feel honored and blessed to be connected with you all and carrying out this work in honor of Liz and her incredible legacy of kindness, compassion, commitment to action on behalf of others and a love of young people.


With love and warm wishes for the holiday season, which is bittersweet and unpredictable when you are missing someone dear to your hearts,


Leah

Dec 2015 Update! December 14, 2015

Total to date: $4,310.00
Amount remaining to date: $2,075.05
Total # of Projects to date: 8
Total # of Youth Participants: 35
Approx. # of People Directly Impacted: 693

2015-16 Projects Funded
Vids for Kids | $440.00 | 5th grader Olivia learned video editing and filming techniques from a local professional, and then wrote, directed, filmed and edited a 7-min video about Friendship & Compassion, recruiting a number of schoolmates to appear in the film. She then gave a speech and presented the video at an all-school assembly. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcMlF9ZyhpQ&feature=youtu.be

Pop-up Project: Opening Our Doors | $299.93 | Seven returning 8th grade participants were invited by The Fenway Alliance (of major cultural organizations in Boston) to lead craft projects for kids attending their annual event, “Opening Our Doors” on the plaza of The Mary Baker Eddy Library. Hundreds of kids participated and loved the crafts and interacting with the group!

Thanksgiving Help | $383.16 | 2nd time participants Michael (3rd grade), Ella and Jack (4th graders) wanted to provide Thanksgiving meals for people who would struggle to afford them this year. One of our goals in mentoring our kids is to challenge them to think about their "gift" from the perspective of the receiver rather than simply deciding what to give based on their own experiences and preferences. Another goal is for them to make a human connection and build community with their acts of kindness and service.

So, instead of donating items to a local food drive, we asked our wonderful Board Member, Aldonsa Pereyra, to help identify 6 individual families in the city of Lawrence who could be helped by this gift. And then we asked her to ask each of them (all are Dominican) what they would actually want to receive and eat on Thanksgiving.

We all learned a great deal by asking this simple question, and spent our time and money purchasing items like pernil (pork bottom roast), green pigeon peas, olive oil, fruits and vegetables, large bags of rice, and spices and seasonings.

As we drove from house to house, and walked up and down flights of stairs with heavy bags and boxes, we talked about how those are equally important parts of the "gift." Putting ourselves in others' shoes for a few moments, shaking their hands, being welcomed into their homes, wishing each other "Happy Thanksgiving," and being certain that they were going to enjoy each item they received... It was truly a beautiful evening, and all of our lives are richer for it. The kids never lost their positive energy and their spirits were so generous throughout!

2014-15 Projects Funded
Stage-fright Workshop | $58.12| Beverly, MA: 1st and 5th grader organized and led a workshop to help 1st graders overcome their stage-fright and gain self-confidence speaking in front of peers.

Action! | $426.14 | Methuen, MA: 6th grader taught an after-school acting class for 6 weeks to 1st and 2nd graders at an elementary school in Andover, MA.

Never Alone | $309.59 | Peabody, MA: 8th graders Assembled two large laundry baskets that contained toiletries and laundry supplies for Family Promise North Shore Boston, a homeless shelter in Beverly, MA.

Funday Sunday | $122.84 | Lowell, MA: 7th graders organized a fun afternoon of playing and cookie decorating at The House of Hope in Lowell.

Children Fun Time | $195.17 | Lowell, MA: 7th graders organized a fun afternoon of playing, face painting and water fun for kids living at Merrimack House in Lowell.