This past Friday, I had the pleasure of talking with Kendall Ciesemier, about her amazing work with the charity she founded, Kids Caring 4 Kids. At eleven years old, after seeing an Oprah Winfrey special about kids helping other kids in a poor country, Kendall Ciesemier knew she had to do something to help the millions of AIDS orphans in Africa. She began by adopting a child through World Vision using $360, all her own. She couldn’t believe how easy that was. All she had to do was “put paper in an envelope” as she explained. It was “so easy to help” and that inspired her to do so much more. Seeing how simple it was for her contribution sparked ideas to get even more kids involved.
But seeing Oprah’s special on TV was only the spark lighting a fire ready to burn. Besides being the most generous eleven year old the world has ever seen, Kendall was fighting a hard battle of her own. Born with a rare liver disease, Kendall went through not one, but two liver transplants during the summer of 2004. She was lucky enough to have the support from a loving network of family and friends, plus access to high-quality medical care, but her heart was breaking knowing that millions of struggling children weren’t as fortunate. Kendall adopted a project through World Vision to support highly affected villages in Africa and she began accepting donations in the place of flowers or gifts. The goal at the time was to raise $2,000.
That summer, around the time she needed the second transplant, she was able to set up a blog and post about the status of her condition as well as the status of her goal to help the children of Africa. Soon enough Kendall had followers and donators she has never even met and was able to raise $15,000 by the end of the summer! Kids Caring 4 Kids was born and grew at an exceptional rate. In one year from 2006 to September of 2007, donations doubled from $60,000 to $120,000!
During my chat with Kendall she told me about what she can only describe as one of the “craziest days of [her] life.” During her second week of high school, President Clinton came in for a surprise assembly…in Kendall’s honor! After explaining to her fellow classmates what a true inspiration Kendall is, President Clinton swooped her up so they could immediately get to the Oprah show and tape a segment about all of Kendall’s great work – but wait, it gets even better! By the end of the show, an anonymous donor (a friend of President Clinton’s) donated half a million dollars to Kids Caring 4 Kids, putting them very close to their goal of one million dollars!
The amazing publicity Kendall and her foundation received gave KC4K the ability to expand and do even more than Kendall even thought they could. Everything from feeding hungry kids and providing clean water to Zambia, to building a dorm in Ngulini and rescuing children in Ghana, Kids Caring 4 Kids has done amazing work.
The Lifesong School in Kitwe, Zambia supports over 200 orphaned and vulnerable children with a quality education and so much more. In an effort to raise $150,000 for the school, KC4K launched a campaign called “Dance 4 Lifesong” which is intended to inspire high schools from across the country to raise $5,000 through their own 5-hour dance marathon. By rallying 100 dancers to get down on the dance floor for five hours to create change, each participant raises $50 for the event through finding 5 sponsors to support the him/her with $10 each.
Kendall explained “We have set our hopes high for Dance 4 Lifesong. We want to inspire 30 schools and groups to get involved, raising together a total of $150,000 for the Lifesong School in order to build and furnish 3 classrooms, build 1 computer lab (the first one in their community), feed the students with 2 meals each day, and supply and staff the nurse’s office (the only place for them to go when they are sick).” If you are interested in holding your own Dance 4 Lifesong dance marathon, you can find out more here.
A complete list of KC4K projects can be found here and you’ll be even more impressed!
In the summer of 2010, Kendall went on her first trip to Africa with her family. She describes being able to see the kids she helped face to face as an “amazing experience.” She explained that it got tough raising money for five years without seeing the full impact of what she has done but “being able to hug the kids” in Africa was “all I needed.” Her memorable trip brought back the inspiration from the moment she first saw the Oprah Winfrey special.
Besides being one of Hello Giggles’s Women Working to Do Good, Kendall has also been honored one of Glamour Magazine’s “20 Amazing Young Women,” Chicago Magazine’s “Chicagoan of the Year,” a Prudential Top Ten Youth Volunteer, a Discover Financial Top Scholar, a Nordstrom Scholar, a Gloria Barron Young Hero, and most recently a Google Zeitgeist Young Mind! (I told you she was amazing!)
A current freshman at Georgetown University, Kendall is hoping to pursue a career in broadcast journalism and she has just finished a project to create a leadership team geared towards taking students through a fundraising experience and create a global consciousness. KC4K has inspired over 7,000 youths raising nearly $1,000,000 and 8 different projects. Above all Kendall wants to encourage kids to open their hearts and take action. She’s proven what a big difference one kid can make.
Seven years later Kendall has been able to accumulate the resources and opportunities to take full advantage of launching new projects. Currently KC4K is close to reaching their $1,000,000 goal but you can help them get even closer here.
Women Working to Do Good is a series that Hello Giggles and the White House have been collaborating on. We will bring you stories of women in communities across the United States who we think are stars in their own right. Whether they are young entrepreneurs, active community organizers, or making a difference in a single life or community, we think these women are amazing and want to share their stories with you! Each story will also be featured on the White House blog, and we are working together to bring more strong female role models to the forefront.
If there is a woman in your community who you think should be honored in this series, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!