In September of 2005, while watching cars whiz by a lemonade stand set up to help hurricane survivors after Katrina hit, Talia Leman decided there had to be a better way for children to help. With Halloween just around the corner, Talia decided to focus her hurricane relief efforts in that direction when everyone is in a giving mood.
"Why not ask children EVERYWHERE to ask for a quarter instead of candy? " She did and Talia called her campaign Trick or Treat for the Levee Catastrophe (TLC). Her goal was one million dollars, and she took her message to children, corporations, government officials and the media. She soon saw the project grow.
Talia met with Hy-Vee, a privately owned Midwest grocery chain, who responded by printing her message on 8.5 million trick-or-treat bags and four million print ads for distribution to all their 221 stores in seven states. At her beckoning, government officials across the nation began to support her also. Local, national and international media organizations began to help her spread the word about TLC. Over time, her project grew into a national rally and tally for all children's hurricane relief efforts.
Not only did this effort provide meaningful relief to hurricane survivors, it also provided meaningful and empowering opportunities for children to help make a difference in a hands-on and rewarding way. After having witnessed 9-11, the tsunami and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, children need to know that they can be a force for good in a world where disaster is no stranger. Talia established that awareness in a profound way.
The lasting solutions for the hurricane survivors are developed by the charitable relief organizations. The lasting solutions for the children who raised funds are found through the knowledge that when they work together, they can make a significant difference. Through Talia's project, 4,000 schools unified their efforts. They reported 5.2 million dollars in just three months, during a nationwide media conference call.
UNICEF, the United Nation's Children's Emergency Fund, having been aware of Talia's work through the media, named her their first National Youth Ambassador. Through UNICEF, Talia continues her hurricane relief efforts, and her efforts to empower children to make a difference. In November of 2005, Talia went to Houston, Texas to meet with hurricane survivors on behalf of UNICEF, and learn about their condition and needs. She keeps an on-line diary for UNICEF about her experiences, hoping to educate and inspire readers about how they can offer valuable support.
She also sits on the Board of an Iowa nonprofit organization called RandomKid that empowers children nationwide to solve real-world problems. This organization, born out of TLC, works to help children to help others in meaningful ways, beyond hurricane relief. Recently, Talia designed a modular charm bracelet with flags on it of nations in turmoil, and in between she put peace and harmony signs. She calls it a "Peace Bracelet" and proceeds from sales will go to help children caught in disaster zones.