Sonali Ranaweera, Age 12
School: seventh-grader at Rolling Hills Middle School
- At the age of 11, Sonali created her own charity called "Recycling4Smiles" to raise funds for cleft lip surgeries by redeeming recyclables (CRV). Sonali donates 100 percent of the CRV collected via recyclables from family, friends, and neighbors to help cleft lip surgeries. Once her yearly goal for Cleft Lip surgeries has reached, she donates the remaining funds collected to kids who are diagnosed with cancer.
Key to Awesomeness:
Sonali's compassion towards children and commitment to our Earth are her key to being awesome, according to proud mom Jeewika Ranaweera.
Since March of 2012, Sonali has been collecting money from recyclables and donating the funds to Smile Train, a charity that does surgery to kids born with cleft lips.
Since recycling saves energy and natural resources, and it also reduces landfills, she says "making money from recycling and donating the money to someone else who really needs is a great thing."
With this in mind, she doesn’t take cash donations for her charity unless the money is from recycling, explained mom.
Since March of this year, she has raised $2000, enough money to pay for eight cleft lip surgeries via Smile Train and $500 (target is $1,000) for little Jehan Jacobs who's diagnosed with cancer.
All this is possible thanks to the donations of CRV recyclables from family, friends, and neighbors, and her dedication towards the cause.
At every event mom and daughter attend, they come home with bags full of recyclables collected. Some days they find recyclables dropped by their doorsteps from neighbors and friends.
Every weekend, rain or shine, with the help of her older brother Mano, Sonali sorts them into piles of aluminum cans, plastic and glass. Then all of them are packed in the car and taken to the nearest recycling center for redemption.
Sonali's goal is to bring awareness to kids born with cleft lips, and to childhood cancer which is the least funded cancer in the world while helping the environment, mom said. "She hopes that other kids would join hands with her to raise funds from recyclables for Recycling4Smiles."
On another note, Sonali loves to dance, specially Kandyan Dance, which demonstrates a rich heritage of Sri Lanka. She enjoys performing in numerous Sri Lankan events which reflects her cultural background.
She is also an expert in knitting and has donated more than 30 knitted scarves to Alzheimer patients through the Knitting Club of Marshall Lane Elementary School, the elementary she attended.
Sonali is in the process of publishing two children's books with plans to donate all proceeds to make children happier.
Sonali maintains a balance between her love to help others through her charity, her love to have fun with friends and her love to dance while maintaining her grades in school, mom added.