Volunteers are the backbone of this organization. Without our volunteers, we would not be able to help and give back to the extent that we do. It’s a humbling experience to witness on a regular basis—seeing people that have zero obligation and responsibility to this cause—stepping up and becoming a part of our mission.
In 2017, Vivek Shah became one of our Youth Advisory board members; the story that got him to make that decision is what’s worth sharing. Below are his own words, sharing his story of conviction, inspiration, and support for Kenzi’s Causes.
It’s not easy running a nonprofit organization. There are a lot of variables that we cannot control, but individuals like Vivek gives us hope that this organization will always thrive and do good work—the same kind of hope that our low-income families cling to during their unpredictable seasons of life.
We urge you to read Vivek’s story all the way through. We can guarantee you’ll walk away with a new sense of purpose, new awareness of your privilege, and a new urge to make a difference.
The Right Thing To Do – Vivek Shah
Standing in a warehouse located in downtown Denver, I was exhausted, overworked, and hungry. I’d just spent the last eight hours of my snowy Saturday as a volunteer at the Annual Kenzi’s Causes Toy Shop Event: a place where underprivileged children throughout Colorado could receive new toys for the upcoming holiday season. I sighed, ready to take off my volunteer sticker and call it a day when I heard the voice of an eight-year-old girl behind me.
“Excuse me, sir. Do you think you could get me that small pink teddy bear?” I turned around to meet a charming smile and big puppy-dog eyes. Something about her gaze disarmed me, reinvigorating my veins with energy and determination.
“Of course!” I replied, as I reached across the table to hand it to her. She looked at the teddy bear with such innocent joy that my heart melted. It was amazing to me how something so simple – a small four-dollar toy I wouldn’t think twice about if I saw it laying on the street – could bring so much happiness to someone else. Frankly, I was a bit taken back by my own privilege, and reminded as to why I was there in the first place. I readjusted my volunteer sticker and faced the incoming traffic of parents and kids ready to get their toys. There was still 30 minutes left before the event closed, and I would be working until the doors sealed shut in order to help as many people as possible.
Founder of Kenzi’s Causes, Jessica Bachus, has been running toy shops like this since 2007. Originally a teacher at a local low-income school, Jessica tragically underwent a late-term miscarriage, and her daughter, Kenzi, passed away. When Christmas came that year, she was “sad that she wasn’t getting gifts for her daughter.” In order to fill this gaping hole, Jessica decided to give dolls to various low-income families with whom she was in contact with, fulfilling the holiday spirit. As I interview her, I am touched by her resilience in the face of tragedy. While anyone could understandably be angry, resigned, or hopeless by these circumstances, Jessica chose to fall back on her selfless passion: helping families in need.
Since 2007, the Toy Shop Program has expanded to six different locations throughout Colorado, which serve about 15,000 underprivileged children every year.
The ultimate goal of such toy shops is to alleviate the financial burden of gift-giving during the holidays, providing presents to kids who otherwise may not have received any. In addition to gifts, Kenzi’s Causes has developed a Packz 4 Kidz Program, where backpacks full of school supplies are handed out during August. Furthermore, this organization outshines similar nonprofits by ensuring that every item they hand out is brand-new. Jessica believes that this makes “families really feel equal…it keeps their dignity intact…[because] it’s super important to serve families with dignity.” These children, who have been deprived of many resources and opportunities simply due to the financial circumstances of their parents, deserve the ability to open up a freshly-packaged item and call it theirs.
After volunteering that first time at the toy shop, I fell in love with the program I was witnessing. Even more so, I admired Jessica’s use of privilege to help people in need, and I felt inspired to do the same.
“I quickly applied to be the chair of the youth board, becoming an active member in raising money for events, organizing drives, and setting up meetings.”
I support Kenzi’s Causes, not because I pity these kids or because I need to for school, but because it’s the right thing to do. Even though I was born with access to resources and experiences, it’s my duty to use this privilege to help other kids who weren’t as lucky. So I ask you to do your part; use your privilege to help these children.
“A monetary donation of 40 dollars would provide a kid in need with a backpack filled with supplies, giving them the opportunity to tackle education in a dignified manner.”
If that isn’t something you can afford, volunteers are always needed at the toy shop, backpack giveaway, and various other events to make sure everything is running smoothly. If all else fails, then simply spread the word; any support at all is appreciated, and it shows that you are committed to doing the right thing as well.
Thank you, Vivek , for your service and advocacy for our organization. It’s people like you that make this cause truly possible.
To learn more about Kenzi’s Causes and our different programs, click here.