April 2016 Volunteers of the Month
Sydney and Riley Kaplan
The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter is fortunate to have many talented and dedicated volunteers from all walks of life. While some, like our March Volunteer of the Month, have made a big impact in a short period of time with the Chapter, others have been involved for many years. A large part of the Chapter’s success in raising money and awareness for ALS research and patient care is the longevity of people like Ellyn Phillips, Jeff Abrams, and, of course, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Even so, very few volunteers can say that they have been active with the Chapter since before they were born. Our April Volunteers of the Month, Sydney and Riley Kaplan, have literally been helping the ALS cause their entire lives.
Every month, the Chapter highlights volunteers who have given their time to help with events or assist in the office or support people with ALS in some other important way. This program started in 2012 and two of the first people recognized were Larry and Jill Kaplan, who have been tremendously helpful through their work with Hot Chocolate, the Phillies Phestival, and ALS Express. In the process of searching for pictures of Larry and Jill for their profile, a photo was found of Jill Kaplan at an ALS event while pregnant with her daughter Sydney. This was evidence of the Kaplan children attending events even before they were born.
As members of the Kaplan family and, as a result, extended members of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter family, Sydney and Riley have grown up finding ways to help others living with ALS. Nobody in the Kaplan family has ALS, yet these two young people are fully aware of the disease and have become friends with many people living with ALS over the years. From the time they were born, they understood that some people had disabilities, and their parents helped ingrain them with values of compassion, fairness, and generosity.
This month is not about celebrating Larry and Jill again though. This is about all of the things that Sydney and Riley have done, very often on their own, to make a difference in the lives of those touched by ALS, and they have done a lot.
Sydney Kaplan started helping the ALS cause by making and selling bracelets at her day camp with the money going to The ALS Association. She knew about the disease and how she could help and she wanted to do something positive on her own. Her younger brother Riley joined in and they started to hold lemonade stands in the neighborhood and making and selling duct tape creations on their school bus. Sydney was the artist and Riley was the salesperson. They did such a good job at raising money and making it seem fun that they got all of their friends involved too.
The enthusiasm that Sydney and Riley showed lead to them being asked to volunteer at the Phillies Phestival. Each year, thousands of people show up to the Phestival to get autographs from their favorite players, including many excited young people. Sydney and Riley do love the Phillies, but they come to the event to work at the ALS sales table, encouraging the large crowd of baseball fans to purchase shirts, bracelets, and other items to benefit The ALS Association. Their energy pumps up the crowd as they take in the event.
Sydney and Riley’s energy is also valuable at The ALS Express bike ride each summer. Volunteers are critical to making sure that riders know where they are going as they zoom into the endpoint in Wildwood, New Jersey, and the best volunteers are able to keep the excitement up for someone who has just rode 50 or 75 miles on their bike. Sydney and Riley and their parents celebrate near the end point of the ride for hours on a hot summer day, cheering on all of the riders to let them know that they are appreciated and that they are nearly finished.
That is not all that these amazing young people do each year, far from it. While Hot Chocolate is for adults over the age of 21, Sydney and Riley help their parents with preparations in the weeks and months leading up to the event. They help with decorations and anything else that is needed because they know how important Hot Chocolate is for the Chapter.
Over the years, Riley and Sydney have seen a lot of ways that they can help the Greater Philadelphia Chapter, but they wanted to take on a big project on their own. In 2014, they organized a fundraising event at their local Sky Zone where a portion of the day’s sales and money from raffles would be donated to The ALS Association. It was so much fun and so successful that they put on the event again the next year and raised over $1,000. The Sky Zone staff said it was the largest amount that they have raised at a charity event ever and they hope to have the Kaplans back again in 2016.
Naturally, Sydney and Riley are already planning their next event. They are also looking forward to the Phillies Phestival and any other event where they can help. Everyone at the Chapter knows that if the Kaplan children are volunteering, the event will be fun and successful. They know how to be champions for the ALS cause. After all, Sydney and Riley have been volunteering in some way for their entire lives. The ALS Association is grateful for all of their time, energy, and thoughtfulness that these young people have brought to help fight ALS from day one.