RANCHO SANTA FE — Malia Rappaport has been chosen as Outstanding Youth Volunteer and will be recognized during an awards ceremony at the Hilton Bayfront in honor of the 40th annual Philanthrophy Day on Oct. 25.
She was nominated by three of the charities for which she volunteers: Girl Scouts of San Diego and Imperial Counties, the Miracle League of San Diego and Kids Included Together.
“I didn’t even know I had been nominated,” said the 17-year-old Rancho Santa Fe resident. “Then I started getting e-mails.”
She said volunteering comes naturally to her.
“I think I was born with it,” she said. “My parents raised us to be open to new experiences and to make a difference in the community.”
She said her father is an inventor of toys and he has donated hundreds of baseball bats every year to the Miracle League of San Diego. Her mother is a Girl Scout troop leader.
“It was natural to follow in their footsteps,” she said.
The common thread in Malia’s charitable activities is “inclusion.”
“I guess I grew up with my own disability, getting bullied and excluded from activities,” she said.
She suffered the physical tics of Tourette’s Syndrome.
“Kids were pretty mean to me, but once I explained to them, they were kinder to me once they understood what was going on,” she said.
As a volunteer for Miracle League, she is a buddy for a player on the team.
“I help them with whatever they need,” she said. “I help them get around the bases and bat. I love it, it is a great feeling. It’s such a family there.”
Miracle League is for children with disabilities who otherwise would be unable to play baseball or interact with other children, she said.
She has been a Girl Scout since she was a small child and will soon earn her Gold Award, which is the equivalent of Eagle Scout for Boy Scouts. For her project, she feeds homeless once a month on Sunday and organizes birthday parties once a month for homeless children whose birthdays fall within the month. She also arranges for a special gift for the child, which is given to the mother to present.
Also for her project, she has organized a curriculum about disability awareness for middle-schoolers that encourages teachers and other students to include children who are different or who have disabilities.
She and 20 other teens created “I am Norm,” to help other teens redefine the word “normal” and promote inclusion.
She chooses her charitable work because it gives much back to her.
“I don’t look at big picture, I just look at the experience,” she said. “If something is going to give me an amazing experience, I am there.”
That might explain one of the ways she raises money for Kids Included Together, an organization she help found. The event called “Over the Edge For Charity,” is an opportunity for anyone who raises $1,000 for the cause to repel down the side of the 33-story downtown Hyatt as a reward.
“I’ve done it twice, It’s really empowering,” she said.
Malia is a senior at Canyon Crest Academy. She plans to attend art school. Her long-term plans include becoming an entrepreneur.
“There are a few business ideas going through my head,” she said.