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Northern Virginia nonprofit thrives with children at the helm

Touching Heart Founder Helen Yi thanks “Sing Your Heart Out” winner Ella Levri, who donated her $500 winnings back to Touching Heart for the benefit of Loudoun County foster Care kids. Courtesy Photo/Touching Heart
A nonprofit organization that gives children the chance to come up with and lead their own charity events has now raised well over $1 million thanks to the latest fundraising drive by two local school girls.

The latest boost to the Touching Heart nonprofit came from Nina Keltz, 8, and friend Olivia Woo, 12, who organized a children's singing competition at Smokehouse Live in Leesburg, which raised over $5,000 for the Loudoun County Foster Care System.

Touching Heart, based in Herndon, was founded in 2010 by by Helen Yi and her daughter, Taylor. The inspiration behind it was two-fold.

“My daughter Taylor was turning 13 at the time and she wanted to have a birthday party. Instead of having birthday presents she asked friends to donate to a local charity of their choice,” Yi said.

The idea was such a huge success with Taylor's friends and parents, who enjoyed the idea of giving, it got mother and daughter thinking how they could encourage more young people to raise money for charity.

“Taylor and I had the idea, why don't we set up an organization to give kids the opportunity to give back?” Yi added.

Giving runs in the family. Yi's grandma set up an orphanage in Korea during the Korean War to help children on the street, and she went on to open schools for girls and boys.

“I was always inspired by my grandmother and wanted to be like her, to live a life that was more meaningful and intentional,” Yi said.

According to its founders, Touching Heart's goal is to encourage children to show compassion at an early age. It runs an after-school program as well as a program called Kids on a Mission (KOAM), which is the program Nina Keltz and Olivia Woo have been involved in. Through it kids and teens are paired with a coach to work together to organize a fundraising event and awareness for a charity of their choice. Funds are raised for both local charities and charities overseas.

Keltz said organizing the singing competition wasn't especially difficult.

“We reached out to sponsors by explaining what we were trying to do and asking for help. First we found a location sponsor – Smokehouse Live – then sponsors for items for the raffles and silent auction to help raise money,” she said. “We put flyers around Ashburn and at my school to invite singers to be involved and for people to come watch.”

Woo added that the foster care system was chosen as the charity to benefit because she is a kid herself.

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