Neha Gupta distributed toys and created a computer lab at Philadelphia’s St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children to connect bored, lonely kids to the outside world. Jack Roth, a 3-year-old severely burned in a campfire accident, received one of the toys.
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At age 16, Neha Gupta’s vision to change the lives of some of the world’s neediest kids is certainly in sight. Her foundation, Empower Orphans, has raised $900,000 in four years to clothe, feed and educate children in her parents’ native India and closer to her home in the Philadelphia suburbs.
A year ago, Neha won the National Make A Difference Day Award for creating a library at a needy Philadelphia school. For the most recent event, she started a computer center at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, also in Philadelphia. The idea: engage bored, lonely patients and connect them with the outside world, especially friends and teachers.
With $5,000 raised through community donations and garage sales, Neha bought three tablets, three laptops and three big-screen monitors; nine volunteers helped her set them up on Make A Difference Day. “These computers will help kids continue living as if nothing was wrong,” Neha says. “That will lift their spirits.”
One 12-year-old seizure patient, who didn’t communicate with hospital staff for a week, turned the corner when he spotted a computer tablet donated on Make A Difference Day. “That was the spark,” says Melissa Lusk, a child life specialist at the Philadelphia hospital. “He grabbed it and started talking.”
The Disney Store also donated hundreds of toys that Neha and her team distributed. Jack Roth, a 3-year-old severely burned in a campfire accident, received a remote-control Mater, the dimwitted Cars tow truck. Neha “sat on the floor and played with Jack for 45 minutes,” says grateful mom Melissa Roth of Moorestown, N.J. “It was a special day for all the kids.”