Q: What motivated you to start Bake a Difference?
SH: I chose to start Bake a Difference because when I was 4 years old I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I’ve been extremely lucky because my epilepsy has never placed any limits on what I can and can’t do. However, after realizing that there are a lot of other kids with epilepsy who are not as lucky as I am, I knew I wanted to help make a difference in their lives.
The most frustrating part about living with epilepsy is how little other people know about it. Although I am not embarrassed about my epilepsy, it’s still very hard to tell someone I have a seizure disorder. By starting Bake a Difference, I hoped to get people talking about epilepsy so that it would lose the negative connotations and become less foreign to people outside the medical world.
Q: What does giving back to the community and helping children mean to you?
SH: Ever since I was little, my parents have always reinforced the importance of giving back to the community. My friends and I started participating in bake sales and food drives when we were very young. Over the years, I’ve realized that there’s nothing more rewarding than the feeling you get when you’ve done something good for others. It is amazing to see the smile on other children’s faces, even if I don’t know them.
The best part about helping others is the idea that one day they might be as lucky as I am. While I understand that this might not be possible for every child or teen with epilepsy, I hope that the money we raise can help kids at Nicklaus Children’s leave the hospital and experience all the amazing things in life.
Q: What is it like to see so many members of the community come together for a great cause?
SH: One of the things I love most about Bake a Difference is that anyone can participate. Last year, we had over 40 stands from Homestead to Boca filled with kids of all different ages coming together to raise money for The Brain Institute. Whether they participated in Bake a Difference for just a few hours or for the entire day, over 100 kids not only donated their time, but also had lots of fun.
Seeing people come out to support such an amazing cause is incredible especially since it means so much to me, personally. Many of the people who are involved at this point probably don’t even know who I am. That makes it even more exciting because it really shows how much Bake a Difference has grown over the years.
Q: Why is it important to get our kids involved in giving back and volunteering?
SH: When I was younger, my parents showed me how rewarding it was to give back. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives, especially with social media, extracurricular activities and schoolwork.
Bake a Difference is a great way to help remind kids how important it is to give back to the community. Who knows, maybe a few years from now, another kid somewhere will be inspired to start another charity because of how much they enjoyed being a part of this Bake a Difference experience.
The last thing I want to say is a huge “Thank You!” to Dr. [Michael] Duchowny, Pat Dean and the incredible staff at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. Almost 10 years ago, when I was diagnosed with epilepsy, my parents and I were scared because, like most people, we didn’t understand what was happening or what having seizures really meant. Dr. Duchowny taught us that even though I have epilepsy, epilepsy doesn’t have me.
I am 14 years old now and despite being diagnosed with epilepsy, I have chosen to live my life, explore the world and know that I can do and be anything I put my mind and effort towards. Starting Bake a Difference in Miami was a huge way for me to do just that and achieve one of my goals: to bring the community together so kids can raise money to help other kids.
I invite everyone to bake some cookies, set up a stand and be a part of this year’s event, which will take place on Saturday, November 18, 2017. I know together we can make this year our best year ever and really Bake a Difference!
About Nicklaus Children's Hospital
Founded in 1950 by Variety Clubs International, Nicklaus Children's Hospital is South Florida's only licensed specialty hospital exclusively for children, with nearly 800 attending physicians and more than 475 pediatric subspecialists. The 309-bed hospital, known as Miami Children's Hospital from 1983 through 2014, is renowned for excellence in all aspects of pediatric medicine with many specialty programs routinely ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report since 2008. The hospital is also home to the largest pediatric teaching program in the southeastern United States and has been designated an American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet facility, the nursing profession's most prestigious institutional honor. For more information, please visit www.nicklauschildrens.org.