LIHUE — Receiving a $25 gift card in 2012 is a memory that will forever stick with Aaliyah Keala Nero.
She and her family spent two months at the YWCA women’s shelter that year and when they needed it most, someone gave them that card.
Now Keala, who turns 11 on December 20, honors that day with a gift card giveaway on her birthday and she administers that giveaway through a foundation she started last year: Keala’s Big Sister Club.
She collects the gift cards from donors in the community.
“I want to give back because it felt good to get that $25 gift card,” Keala said. “The cards go to kids in need and they can get things like school supplies or food, too.”
Last year was the debut gift card giveaway and Keala gave away seven cards. This year, her goal is to distribute 50 in a ceremony that will be held at Kukui Grove on Dec. 18.
“The gift cards can come from anywhere on Kauai,” Keala said. “They can come from Times, Walmart, Kmart — a lot of stores.”
Originally, Keala targeted girls as recipients of the gift cards and as the focus of her foundation.
“I don’t have any sisters and my mom suggested starting a foundation so I can be a sister to other girls,” Keala said.
Her mother, Stephanie Shinno, said Keala, who has two brothers, kept asking for a sister, so she suggested starting a foundation.
“She really wanted a sister but that wasn’t going to be happening,” Shinno said. “So, the foundation was a way for her to get that.”
“It was supposed to be just girls, but then I thought about my brothers and I thought it’d be good to have boys too,” Keala said.
The idea behind the gift card giveaway is to help people and Keala said she’d like to do that for the rest of her life.
“I want to be a kid’s doctor when I grow up because I want to help them be healthier,” Keala said.
In her down time, Keala likes to play sports and run, she models for Maile Taylor Models and she’s running for Miss Kauai Pre-Teen USA 2017.
To donate, contact Stephanie Shinno at 631-1644, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.