After six-year-old Daniel Heidenberg lost his life to leukemia in December 1996, Steven Cohen created Friends for Life of America to help other patients living with pediatric cancers. He recognized the important contributions that students could make in their communities by serving others.
Working diligently to garner school and community support, Steven designed a website (http:/www.friendsforlife.com), organized community-wide fundraisers, and lectured on bone and tissue donation at high schools and Hispanic agencies throughout South Florida. A fluent Spanish speaker, Steven also traveled to Mexico to interview hospital administrators to learn more about the quality of programs and services offered to cancer patients; he wanted to make an impact both nationally and internationally. In February 1997, Steven established the first chapter of Friends for Life of America at the University School of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida but that was just the beginning.
Steven has spearheaded a variety of dynamic programs to improve the lives of pediatric cancer patients and their families. Foremost among these programs is the Hearts for the Holidays Campaign, an innovative Friends for Life of America volunteer service program that encourages students, faculty, staff, and community members to design inspirational holiday cards for pediatric patients undergoing treatment during the holiday season. Steven did not just think of this idea, but also participated in every facet of the program – from promoting the campaign to helping package the cards for distribution. This year alone, Friends for Life of America members distributed in excess of 30,000 cards to hospitals worldwide.
Over the past decade, Friends for Life of America, now a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, has transformed into the largest global student organization that serves pediatric cancer patients and their families. Growing at a rapid rate, the organization has attracted the support of more than 50,000 students in thirty-five high schools, colleges, and universities throughout the United States, Australia, Italy, and Nepal. Under Steven’s leadership, Friends for Life of America has raised more than $100,000 to fund research grants, patient services, and community programs. And because of Steven’s desire to extend the organization’s reach to as many pediatric patients as possible, members have sent holiday cards, hats, and teddy bears to patients undergoing cancer treatment in almost every state and in more than twenty countries. At just twenty-three years old, Steven has made a dramatic difference in the lives of others.
Steven is a powerful inspiration and a wonderful role model. Not only does he approach every day as a fresh opportunity to impact others through Friends for Life of America, but he also displays outstanding time management skills. Steven recently graduated from the University of Florida with a perfect 4.0 GPA, summa cum laude, while also spending over twenty hours a week managing Friends for Life of America programs. Steven is a young visionary who is a role model for adults and youth alike.