NEW YORK – More than 50,000 children across American participated in Make a Difference with Loukoumi Day on October 24, an exercise in good deeds inspired by the Loukoumi children’s book series written by attorney Nicholas Katsoris.
Philanthropic behavior is vital to societies’ well-being. It is also well known that the earlier children are taught social behavior, the more firmly grounded it is. Common sense shouts the two should be connected, but it takes leadership and vision from people like Katsoris and his team, who also created the Loukoumi Make a Difference Foundation, a 501 c 3 organization, to develop the idea.
National Make a Difference Day was established by USA Today with a mission – to improve the lives of others. Seven million people participate,
Seven years ago Katsoris thought of focusing on children and enabling them to make a difference by doing what they love. His children, Julia and Constantine, love animals, so they raised money for the New Rochelle Humane Society.
“It’s wonderful. The kids love doing it and to see them react to it and see their smiles gives you hope for the future, “he told TNH.
Katsoris is also very pleased that the movement has touched young people in Greece. “The organization EIMAI – The Center for Emerging Young Leaders, is running Make a Difference Projects in more than 20 schools in Greece. Co-Founder Ellen Froustis found us, and she believes the future of Greece depends on teaching children about responsibility… we want to make this contagious in Greece and I’m taking Loukoumi to ancient Olympia next summer to talk about the good deeds and the great things these kids are doing.”
In the New York Metropolitan area the day included a special bus tour that made five stops, taking children and parents, including Brownies troop 1596 from Scarsdale, from Katsoris’ parish of Holy Trinity of New Rochelle that morning and back again for a special party in the evening.
The first stop was at the Westchester Children’s Museum in Rye, NY. The Foundation presented a check for $20,000 to underwrite The Make A Difference with Loukoumi Exhibit, lending library and reading area that will promote reading appreciation and literacy with a focus on the life lessons taught in the Loukoumi book series that teaches children to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.
The Church of Our Savior in Rye was the second stop. Children listened to Katsoris read Loukoumi’s Good Deeds, the book that launched the series. The children joined the Philoptochos in assembling welcome for veterans transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing.
The third stop was Fordham University as part of an effort to raise funds for an ongoing Loukoumi project, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The participants watched part of the Fordham football game are were acknowledged over the P.A. system. Loukoumi met and became friends with the equally big and fuzzy Fordham Ram mascot.
The students of the William Spyropoulos School at St. Nicholas in Flushing, the next stop, participated in a coat drive. October is Bullying Awareness Month and Katsoris Loukoumi and the Schoolyard Bully.
Paul Lountzis, the father of four grown children, believes in the Foundation’s work, saying “It’s a wonderful message. He and volunteers Cynthia Herzegovich and Connie Mavrovitis spoke to TNH about the Foundation and the day’s highlights.
Herzegovich told TNH the Rye welcome baskets were personalized with hank you cards and paintings by the children “so they can have some artwork to hang on the walls,” of their temporary homes.
She loves how even four year olds get it about the power of doing little things. “I tell them ‘when you smile at somebody and say hello, you’ve done a good deed,’ and they say ‘wow.’”
“Gregory Pappas, AVP for Student Affairs, hosted a wonderful meal for us at Fordham,” Lountzis said, and added that they delivered a donation and cheerful cards the Loukoumi children made for the kids at St. Jude’s.
Make a Difference with Loukoumi Day is a decentralized affair. Groups across the country inform Katsoris about the projects they choose. Herzegovich emphasized the movement is for any age children – and adults and they can do any project they like.
Attorney Irene Nisyrios Xylas – her roots are in Kalymnos – is on the PTA Executive Board and she informed the guests at St. Nicholas that the New York Cares organization reports that 63,000 homeless people don’t have winter coats – including 23,000 children. “So the coats you brought today will make a big difference,” she told the kids. Last year her daughter Arietta gathered a whopping 1500 books for a library in Africa.
TNH spoke to three Loukoumi Dream Day winners, children whose description of their aspirations won them a day with standouts in the professions they aspire to. Lionel Li wrote he wanted to be a soccer player “because it displays teamwork. You get to work together and have fun.” He scrimmaged and had lunch with the Red Bull pro team.
Jordan Stewart, aspiring football player, got to go to Giants training camp and meet players like Odel Beckham and Eli Manning.
Ava Tsapatsaris who attends Eastchester Middle School and whose roots are in Mani wants to be a pediatrician. Her dream day is coming up.
The day ended with a party for all at Holy Trinity, a parish led by Fr. Nicholas Anctil and which has a strong philanthropic tradition. Philoptochos has a monthly food and clothing run near Penn Station and serve about 125 people.
Philoptochos President Marina Sirras emphasized that value to children and Philoptochos of the cooperation the Foundation is encouraging and Parish Council President Dino Yotides said he is proud to have Katsoris as a member of the parish and that the Loukoumi movement had its roots there too.