Abby Weinzer was born with Pierre Robin Syndrome, a rare muscular skeleton condition that causes chronic skeletal pain and hearing loss. When she was born, the doctors told her mother she would not live, and they sent her home to die. Abby and her family fought the disorder and together they are winning. Simply walking causes her pain, but Abby has found time in a mere 14 years of life to continue her fight against another culprit – the plight of homeless children.
Abby began her volunteer service at the age of five when she gathered toys to take to local homeless shelters and distribute to the children there. At the age of 10, she served her first dinner at a homeless shelter in Phoenix, and her dedication to the community has blossomed from there. While continuing to work at the homeless shelter, the faces of shivering children in threadbare clothing hugging themselves to stay warm was burned in her memory. She immediately knew more had to be done.
Abby conceived Operation Sleep Sac. She thought it would be of great assistance to get donations of new sleeping bags, toiletries and stuffed animals for the children in the shelter. The new bags and toiletries would promote dignity and provide warmth. The stuffed animals would provide a sense of security for the child whether they be on the street for a night or in a homeless shelter. Her idea was not taken seriously by local businesses when she approached them for donations of sleeping bags. Although she was frustrated, Abby was undeterred and kept her dream alive.
At the age of thirteen, Abby was the youngest person to ever receive the 1998 City of Phoenix, District Two Young Women of the Year Award, and she used the opportunity to present City Councilman, Tom Milton with a fully developed prospectus for Operation Sleep Sac. Councilman Milton endorsed the project and advised that Abby’s prospectus was more professional than the many he receives from adults. This endorsement led to Abby meeting the Executive Director of HomeBase Youth Services (HBYS), a Phoenix-based, non-profit agency serving homeless teenagers. HBYS also agreed to sponsor Operation Sleep Sac and allow donations to be made through HBYS for the program. In its first six months Operation Sleep Sac raised more than $10,000. Today it has become its own 501©(3) organization, raising more than $38,000 for homeless children in need.
Not only has she conceived and implemented Operation Sleep Sac, but also Abby has managed and developed a school liaison project between city high schools and the City of Phoenix Youth and education. She has also developed and integrated “Positive Voices, Positive Choices” theme for the 1999 City of Phoenix Youth Town Hall and jumpstarted First Jobs Arizona, which is an advisory council, and been the youngest youth voice for disabled families. She is the recipient of the Prudential Spirit of Community bronze medal, Mildred Tauman Volunteerism Award, Ability Counts Award, Desert Shadows Middle School Outstanding Female Student Award and George Washington Medal of Honor.
Abby’s compassion reflects her own understanding of pain and suffering. She is a bright shining star in Phoenix and holds to the highest standards of personal integrity and character. Excellence in every pursuit is her goal.