Great Lakes Credit Union and Little Lake County are proud to bring you Kirby Kids: Kids. Doing. Good. This program recognizes a child each month that is doing good in their community and brings you their stories of determination, hope and goodwill.
When 13 year old Ariella accompanied her mother to work at CJE SeniorLife Weinberg Community, she never realized that her visit there would soon change her life. She had no idea that everything she thought she knew, and how she viewed events from the past, would forever be different. The stories that she listened to would not only come to enrich her understanding of events, but would greatly affect the storytellers as well. She learned about a time in history, that for some is too painful to talk about, but for many survivors of the Holocaust, talking about it is the only way to spread understanding about a dark time in history.
One day while at work with her mother, Ariella began talking with two Holocaust survivors. They began to tell Ariella their stories of pain, tragedy and survival. Ariella became transfixed with their experiences and felt a strong need to share these first hand accounts with others. She began a project that would be emotional on its best days, but very rewarding. After one of the survivors that she initially spoke to told her how important it was for her generation to hear these stories, she took it to heart to learn more about their experiences and share these accounts with young people like herself.
Talking to two survivors turned into talking to two more, and Ariella began collecting firsthand accounts of the horrific experiences that these people endured. She spent months talking to them, learning, and constantly being surprised by what they told her. She spoke to survivors with many different experiences. Some experienced the horrors of concentration camps or labor camps. Others went into hiding, fleeing the places they knew and loved, hiding in homes, and in one instance, a cave.
Ariella uncovered amazing stories of courage and survival, but the thing that stood out most of all, was their refusal to turn their backs on God. No matter what situation they were in and how it could have made it easier, they never denied their faith. One survivor said she could have hidden her identity to improve her chance of surviving, but she believed that she “was born a Jew, and will die a Jew.” Although Ariella found it incredibly difficult to hear the stories from these courageous survivors, she also recognized the difficulty that they faced talking about their painful experiences as well. She had to be extremely sensitive in choosing her questions and responses.
Once she had gathered all of this information, Ariella decided to take her project to the next level. She spearheaded a program designed to honor and celebrate these incredibly courageous individuals. She created a video with the interviews and showcased the presentation to over a hundred people of all ages. She plans to continue to show these video interviews to future generations.
In many ways, Ariella is a typical 13 year old girl who loves tennis, dancing, hanging out with friends and playing the piano. This experience, however, changed her views and made her realize how important her generation is to carrying out the stories of this last generation of Holocaust survivors. As a result, she learned that doing things for others has helped her appreciate things more and value her own life experiences. She has made it her mission to respect and carefully handle these stories, while sharing them to help people understand history and what people experienced, Most importantly, Ariella hopes that we can learn from these stories will pave the way to a better future.
Each and every one of our Kirby Kids gets to meet Kirby the Kangaroo at their local Great Lakes Credit Union branch. Kirby met Ariella at their local North Chicago Branch and opened up a youth savings account in her name with a $100 starting balance, courtesy of Great Lakes Credit Union.
Do you know an inspirational, courageous or exceptional young person living in Lake County, (age 15 or younger) who is serving as a role model in his or her community? Help us recognize these big hearts! Nominate a child for the Kirby Kids program.
Follow this link to complete a nomination form. If your nominee is selected we will contact you and/or the child’s guardian for inclusion in the Kirby Kids program.
For more information about the Kirby Kids, read our program introduction.
Disclosure: Great Lakes Credit Union is the paid sponsor of the Kirby Kids program.