Ilana Gildenblatt's spirit of volunteerism and generosity is best exhibited by her coordination of the annual "MITZVAH-THON." Ilana first developed the idea at the age of 12, when she organized a bike-blade, walk-, run-, jog-a-thon that, in 1994, raised more than $1,500 for Cincinnati Dreams Come True, a local organization that supports children with potentially life threatening illnesses. She coordinated a group of nearly 40 children and adults, all of whom were asked to solicit sponsors. In addition, she solicited the sponsorship of local businesses that donated gifts for the participants as well as food for a light brunch for those who completed the event. That year, the money was used to make a dream come true for a 13-year old girl suffering from a brain tumor.
The first MITZVAH-THON was so inspirational and so successful that Ilana decided to make the MITVAH-THON an annual event. In its second year, Ilana chose the HIV Family Care Center at Children's Hospital in Cincinnati as the beneficiary. The HIV Family care Center supports families in which at least one family member is a carrier of the HIV/AIDS virus. This time, by organizing another group of volunteers, including a larger group of corporate sponsors, she raised $2,200. In 1996, Ilana continued her efforts, organizing the third annual MITVAH-THON, raising $3,600 for the Shriner Burn Institute.
In 1997, Ilana reluctantly turned the reigns of the annual event over to her younger brother, Seth. Her accomplishments motivated him to continue to make the event successful, and, with her help, he was able to raise more than $4,000 for the National Marrow donor Program through Hoxworth Blood Center in Cincinnati. With the money, a bone marrow and whole blood donor drive was sponsored in October of 1997. This past year, Ilana has continued the annual event, and raised more than $7,000 for the Expressions Program for Children through Hospice of Cincinnati. The Expressions Program is a support program for children and families dealing with the impending loss of a loved one.