SWAMPSCOTT – First trips to Israel are usually full of life-changing moments, but rarely do they take place in hospitals.
Swampscott teen Lila Caplan was in Tel Aviv’s Wolfson Medical Center as part of her Dor L’Dor trip with Camp Tevya. She and her peers were visiting the facilities of Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli nonprofit that performs free, life-saving heart surgeries for children without access to proper medical treatment in nearby Middle Eastern and African countries.
For Caplan, the organization’s mission hit home once she was able to meet the young children it had helped.
“They opened the door, and these kids ran out, and we ended up going to play catch or some of us just sat and got to hold the little babies,” said Caplan. “Just seeing those kids and knowing that their lives were going to be saved or had just been saved was mind-blowing.”
On the spot, Caplan texted her mom to tell her that she planned to raise $15,000, which would roughly cover the costs of one child’s surgery. “When I told her my goal, she was like, ‘Fifteen grand – that’s a lot of money to try and raise for a 16-year-old girl, but of course she was thrilled,” said Caplan. “I said I don’t care what I have to do – I will raise that money – these kids need it.”
Since she returned for her junior year at the Academy at Penguin Hall in Wenham in September, Caplan has been hard at work trying to raise $15,000 by the time she graduates in 2020. Determined not to be “that girl just knocking on doors just asking for people’s money,” Caplan has raised funds in a number of creative ways.
At school, she put together a fundraiser called “punish the principal” that allows students to put money in the jar of whichever task will provide them with the most glee. The dean of students at The Academy at Penguin Hall ended up having to waddle around all day dressed in a large penguin costume.
Caplan also played a violin in front of Stop & Shop in Swampscott with a collection can, and put her summer camp skills to good use by braiding hair at the Marblehead boutique Seaside Allure during the Marblehead Christmas Walk. The latter was especially lucrative, with lines out the door.
Other times, Caplan raised money simply through “being in the right place at the right time,” as she put it. When Amy Latimer, the president of TD Garden, spoke at Penguin Hall, she donated four Celtics tickets when she heard about Caplan’s project. Caplan raffled the tickets to raise money for Save a Child’s Heart.
To date, all of her efforts have accumulated just over $4,000.
Caplan also has worked hard on behalf of many Jewish organizations. She’s on the board for the North Shore chapter of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, and has participated in a number of events with the Jewish Teen Initiative. She is also active with her school’s Jewish Student Union, and has taught Hebrew school at Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, which her family attends.
Caplan is excited to use her newest project not only to help children, but also to help Israel. “There’s so many advances this country has made that people don’t know about,” she said. “It’s producing this organization that’s saved over 4,900 kids’ lives.”