Kenan Program Announces New Scholarship Winners

Little girl with Disney Frozen princess

by Lynda F. Rysavy | Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020


The Kenan Social Engagement Program at the Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University is pleased to announce the selection of two new scholarship winners. These scholarship recipients, or Kenan Scholars, have been chosen as part of a competitive selection process to launch social ventures that they conceptualized and planned in the Fall 2019 semester under the tutelage of program co-directors Timothy Steigenga, Ph.D. and Christopher Strain, Ph.D., both professors at the Wilkes Honors College.

Elizabeth Pino and Sarah Hemmen are the 2020 winners of a $10,000.00 seed grant to continue their social enterprise, Princesses Against Cancer ,  a costumed character party company designed to bring smiles to children fighting disease. Volunteers dress as beloved characters, including Disney princesses, to visit children in hospitals and other care facilities to lift their spirits and make them feel like royalty. This service is provided at no cost to the kids or their families. “We aim to bring a smile in the face of adversity,” said Elizabeth, “because no family, no child, should have to fight for their life alone.” As Sarah puts it, “Cancer is not contagious, but hope is.”

A 501(c)(3) organization, Princesses Against Cancer has traditionally used charitable donations and fundraising to support its mission. However, through the Kenan Program, this unique nonprofit is beginning to explore a one-for-one model, using birthday parties for healthy kids to fund hospital visits for sick kids. In this way, Princesses Against Cancer brings joy not only to paying clients but also to children and families who, feeling the financial stress of chronic illness and long-term hospital stays, might not be able to afford such a party.

Each year, the Kenan Social Engagement Program enters an agreement with a local area nonprofit agency, or community partner. Students volunteer at the community partner; staff at the community partner in turn mentor the student volunteers. Additionally, the students write business plans tailored not only to serve the mission of the community partner but also to create revenue streams for that nonprofit agency, making it less dependent on charitable donations and more economically self-sufficient.

Community partners that have participated in the Kenan Social Engagement Program include the El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center, a day-labor center founded to aid the local immigrant community in northern Palm Beach County; The Lord’s Place, a nonprofit, non-sectarian organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of homelessness in Palm Beach County; the Palm Beach County Food Bank, which provides food for area food pantries and soup kitchens; the Town of Jupiter; Easterseals Florida, a national organization that provides community-based services for people with disabilities; Mind & Melody, which implements uniquely designed music therapy programs for clients with neurological impairments at healthcare facilities, nursing homes, day centers, and assisted living facilities; and Path to College, a mentoring program designed to help at-risk kids apply to college. Now in its eighth year, the Kenan Social Engagement program is funded by a grant and endowment by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust. For more information on the program, click here.


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