LIHUE — Aaliyah Keala Nero wanted to brighten Christmas for as many keiki as she could.
And she did.
The 11-year-old recently distributed 13, $25 gift cards as part of the third annual Christmas service project at Kukui Grove Center.
“Although we did not reach our 100 goal, we are grateful to help 13 kids in need,” said Stephanie Shinno, Aaliyah’s mom and co-founder of Keala’s Big Sister Club, Inc.
It was the third year Nero has given out $25 gift cards to children. Last year, she gave out 29.
Nero was also honored with the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Project. She earned 113 hours of volunteer service from summer of 2016 through this summer.
“Presidential recognition sets you apart from your peers,” said a press release. “It is a tremendous honor. Even though you may not seek recognition, your example can deliver a powerful message that encourages others to take action.
“I am honored to receive this award on behalf of all of Kauai’s youth who give back to their communities without any recognition,” she said.
Shinno said she was grateful for all who gave Aaliyah encouragement and advice.
“It truly does take a village to raise community-minded keiki,” she said.
“Thank you all for your time and inspiration. A special thank you to all who supported my daughter with all her service projects and just for making time for her,” Shinno added.
She credited her daughter with being the driving force behind Keala’s Big Sister Club, Inc.
“The real CEO is Ms. Aaliyah Keala Reiko Nero,” Shinno added. “She is my boss.”’
She said they hope to “inspire many more keiki to see past their personal problems and serve their community with aloha.”
Nero, a student at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, is in the application process for Kamehameha School. She also dances at Aloha Dance Studio. She loves to goof off with her family and friends and loves to help in any way she can.
This gift card service project started in December 2015 when Aaliyah was in fourth grade. She didn’t want to celebrate her birthday, which is on Dec. 20.
Instead, she felt strongly about being a big sister to other keiki and blessing them with gift cards to buy necessities they may need.
She said they plan to try again next year and hope to find new volunteers and donors to make it happen.
“I look forward to taking Keala’s Big Sister Club, Inc. to the next level. I hope I can help more kids in need in 2018,” Nero said. “Thank you to all who supported my vision.”