Written by Denise Nash Friday, 25 September 2009 10:30
Leibowitz has been a Youth Ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research foundation (JDRF) since she was diagnosed. As a Youth Ambassador, she volunteers her time creating awareness of diabetes by attending diabetes-related conferences and being an advocate for other young people with diabetes. In addition she participates in a variety of ways for fundraising events that JDRF sponsors.
Leibowitz participates in the JDRF Walk-a-thon every year and started her team, dubbed Erica’s Eradicators, about nine years ago. This year’s 5K walk is set for October 18 at SUNY College at Old Westbury. Check in is at 8:30 a.m. and the walk starts at 10 a.m.
Erica’s Eradicators will be wearing denim hats with Leibowitz’s logo on them. People are invited to walk with the team and bring their donations with them. Or their checks, made payable to JDRF, can be mailed to Erica’s Eradicators, 14 Kay Street, Jericho, NY 11753. Anyone walking with the team, will get a free T-shirt from the JDRF.
The Long Island Chapter of JDRF was founded in 1975 by volunteers who were parents of children with diabetes. The original office was located in the rear of the Port Washington Thrift Shop; the office is now on Route 110 in Melville. The chapter was run totally by volunteers until 1990, when the first professional staff was hired.
The Long Island Chapter is one of the fastest growing chapters of JDRF. The chapter has experienced double-digit growth for the last five fiscal years and ended fiscal year 2008 with almost $3 million in revenue. The chapter is directed by a volunteer board of directors, most of whom have a direct connection to diabetes. It is through their dedication and hard work and the hard work of the chapter’s professional staff that the chapter has been able to grow, and play a significant role in raising the funds that will find a cure for diabetes.
Throughout the years, Motschwiller has volunteered and raised money for many worthy causes, including organizing and sitting on the Board of the Ally Oops for Autism basketball tournament held each spring at Jericho High School. But she wanted to do more. Following in her sister’s footsteps, Motschwiller devotes many evening hours to La Fuerza.
Since September 2007, Motschwiller has gone to Glen Cove High School at least one night per week, where she spends two hours rehearsing different scenarios with the students. In the beginning, “I was nervous and a bit intimidated. I knew that the students had put in a very hard day’s work and I did not want to waste their time,” said Motschwiller. “I learned to incorporate the skills that were most important to the students; reading their children a bedtime story, advocating with their child’s teacher, counting out money at the grocery store.”
“There were nights that I was tired after school and athletic practice,” noted Motschwiller, who is the captain of her fall varsity soccer team, winter basketball team, and spring lacrosse team. “But my students motivated me to be interesting and enthusiastic; some of the scenarios turned very funny and laughter is understood in all languages,” Motschwiller continued. “When one of the students shares a success story with the class we all celebrate. Over the years the small steps are the reward for my hard work. In addition, following a number of the students and keeping in touch over the years has brought me a perspective on immigrant struggles and given me very special friends.”
For the past two summers Motschwiller has been involved in the summer camp for children at La Fuerza. Recently at the La Fuerza Unida Annual Gala Kickoff, Motschwiller was recognized for her contributions to La Fuerza. “Muchos gracias Caroline,” began Señor Munera, “you came to La Fuerza and devoted many hours to developing new and exciting programs. Working with the staff and students tirelessly and tackling the entire computer database we thought would never get done. You have brought drama and music to our program and introduced so many to so much. Your students of all ages look forward to working with you and have come to love and treasure you. For this we at La Fuerza say again, muchas gracias.”
Motschwiller is also serving on the La Fuerza board currently planning the La Fuerza Gala Event. To volunteer and learn more about La Fuerza Unida and attend the Annual Gala Celebrating Community Spirit on Oct. 1, at Verdi’s, please call 759-0788.