Donna Kato is the Communications and Marketing Director for the American Heart Association in the Silicon Valley and North Central Coast, California and Boise, Idaho markets. She was a journalist for most of her career and became a media relations professional in 2009. She started working for the American Heart Association in April 2016.

As I start my second year at the American Heart Association, it’s become clear that the best part of my job is meeting community members and having them share their stories of how cardiovascular disease has touched their lives. A recent experience inspired me to share this story via a guest blog post.

“I am considering contributing to your organization because I have history of heart disease in my family,” wrote Adam Vichik, a 7th grader at Palo Alto’s Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School. After contacting and interviewing Western States Affiliate Vice President of Communications Julie Kaufmann, Adam chose the American Heart Association for his class philanthropy project. The assignment is intended to educate students about nonprofits and connect them to the spirit of giving. As he learned more about our mission, research network and community initiatives, he knew it was a perfect fit.

Adam created a storyboard that he shared during a school open house and Celebration of Tzedakah (Hebrew for righteous giving) assembly. Guests included parents and representatives from the dozens of nonprofits that were the recipients of the funds raised by the students throughout the year – and included the donation of part of their Bar and Bat Mitzvah gifts. Prior to the event, students presented to each other and voted on how the pot of dollars they raised would be distributed among the organizations. I had the privilege of attending this event and accepting the $1,385 that Adam raised for our Silicon Valley division. My colleague, Senior Director of Community Health Mike Gonzalez, will work with Adam to show him how the money will be spent on a public education activity.

In a time when sensational events and politics dominate the news, I was moved by this selfless and inspiring young man and this school project that gently teaches kids that giving and helping others can start with them. I was reminded yet again of why I love working for a voluntary nonprofit organization.