A local teen is using his upcoming bar mitzvah project to try to make the lives of his friends a little easier, raising money for a family of siblings who lost their parents in a car crash in 2011.
Aidan Silverman, whose family belongs to Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville, has dedicated his celebration as a fundraiser for Peter, Aaron and Willa Berry, whose parents, Joshua and Robin, were killed as the family returned from a vacation. The accident left the two brothers with permanent spinal cord injuries and a lifetime of medical expenses.
“It’s important to me to do it as a fundraiser for the Berry kids, because I know them personally,” said Aidan, whose parents, Jessica and David Silverman, have known the Berrys since college. “I can connect to them.
“This would be as if someone in my grade got injured,” he added. “I would want to help them by doing something.”
According to the Silverman family, 100 percent of the proceeds of the Family Fun Night Fundraiser on Friday, June 12, at the Boys’ Latin Middle School will go to the Joshua and Robin Berry Children’s Trust.
Lexi, Aidan’s sister, also hosted a fundraiser for her bat mitzvah project in 2012.
“It’s so close to us that it’s a labor of love for our whole family,” said Jessica Silverman. “It touches us. It’s very personal.”
The Berry children, ages 13, 12 and 10, live with their aunt and uncle, Simone and Matt Berry, and cousins Noah and Misha, in Houston.
“It’s incredible; [the fundraising] took on a life of its own,” said Simone Berry.
The family has never solicited funds, but it continues to receive calls from people all over offering to help in some way, she said.
The support started in Houston with events such as bake sales and lemonade stands, then spread across the country, said Berry.
Other events have included basketball tournaments with able-bodied children playing in wheelchairs to raise awareness for disabilities; and a “show your hearts” campaign involving several celebrities such as Justin Bieber and the Houston Rockets, who used the power of their social media networks to make the Berry kids’ story known.
The Berry children are involved in advocacy as well.
The five cousins started One Life Is Enough (OLIE), reportedly the first student-developed distracted-driving safety-awareness program in the country. It works in conjunction with StopDistraction.org, a nonprofit that builds awareness and educates about the dangers of reckless driving behavior and offers the Berry children a national platform.
The OLIE program invites people to sign a pledge and commit to drive without distractions such as those caused by using a cell phone or GPS system, grooming, eating or drinking or even just reaching for something out of sight. OLIE offers a reminder bracelet to everyone who commits as well as a fact sheet.
Simone Berry said the siblings speak at schools, universities and businesses about the dangers of distracted driving, and they’ve also partnered with Shriners Hospitals for Children of Chicago, where the two sons have received specialized care.
“We’re not asking for money, just raising awareness,” said the aunt. “We have little business cards we hand out as a reminder that you signed the pledge.”
Most recently, the Berry family was involved in the fight to get House Bill 80 passed in Texas; the legislation would ban texting while driving statewide.
The kids collected thousands of signatures and the family testified along with other victims of distracted drivers, said Berry, and the children spoke to senators and representatives advocating for the bill’s passage; they were recognized on the Senate floor.
The Jewish Herald-Voice reported that the eldest son, Peter, testified, “Those brief seconds, an irreversible and devastating event changed my life and my family forever.”
For Aidan’s event, the Silvermans created a large banner that reads, “We [Heart] the Berrys” for people to write notes to the Berry children. The Silvermans will also send the family a DVD of photos from the party.
“We’re blown away by the spirit and energy and kindness to create a fundraiser like this for the kids,” said Berry.
“It’s a tribute to the friendship they had with Josh and Robin — their love and loyalty and commitment to the children.”
For more information about the event, email [email protected] or call 443-604-8775.