Mitzvot from the Heart: Alyssa Kalishman

Ally Kalishman dedicated her mitzvah project to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). She served as a planning committee member for the group’s fundraising walk, as well as leading the marketing effort for the event and serving as its emcee. 

Alyssa Kalishman, Congregation Shaare Emeth

At the age of 6 months old, Ally was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies. Daughter of Amy and Jim Kalishman of Ladue, she is deathly allergic to eggs, dairy, tree nuts, and shellfish. So much so, that ingesting just a trace amount can cause a severe reaction.

For her mitzvah project, Ally raised awareness and money for Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), a nonprofit that works on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, including anaphylaxis. Its mission is to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies and provide them hope through the promise of new treatments. Because of the advocacy of FARE, awareness of food allergies is increasingly making navigating life for people like Ally a lot easier.

Ally helped plan last September’s FARE Walk St. Louis, the organization’s annual fundraiser held throughout the United States. As the only teen on the planning committee, she worked with the adult volunteers and professionals to help organize the event, including FARE’s regional development manager based in Chicago, Claire Griffith.

Going above and beyond in her volunteer endeavors, Ally did all the marketing for FARE Walk; she contacted media outlets for their support both in print and on their websites, made countless phone calls and posted flyers all over town. Ally also included information about the event in her bat mitzvah invitation.

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Griffith said that Ally is a true gem. “She was an integral part of the FARE walk planning committee,” Griffith added. “Not only did she submit the walk information to numerous media outlets but she also fundraised for the walk and was the top fundraiser. Even though she was the youngest committee member, she strove to make the walk great! It was an absolute pleasure working with her.”

FARE Walk St. Louis 2015 raised over $22,000, twice the event’s goal and last year’s total, thanks in part to Ally’s team. Ally’s Awareness Army was the largest team at the event and raised the most in donations of over $7,000. In addition, Ally was the emcee for the walk, welcoming everyone and kicking off the event. It was a wonderful day for all who attended.

A student at MICDS, Ally said that she learned so much about herself and her strengths through this process. As the emcee, she improved her public speaking and found that when you talk about something that is so important to you, it gives you passion and confidence. 

In her bat mitzvah speech, Ally said that this event gave her hope that the problem that affects so much of her life can someday be curable. “If I didn’t stick up for allergies, nobody would,” she added. “I believe that I helped change the world by participating in this walk and, if not the world, a life. Someone out there could use the money I collected and find a cure. I would be so proud that I was a part of that.”