Mitzvot from the Heart: Leetal Cohn

Leetal Cohn worked with the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition for her mitzvah project. 

Leetal Cohn

Congregation B’nai Amoona

As Leetal’s bat mitzvah approached, she wanted to find ways to nasa, orlift people up. Her Torah portion was Naso. Over the years, her family has been involved with many charities and organization, some going back generations. One of these is the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition, whose mission is to create permanency in foster children’s lives. 

Leetal is the daughter of Plia and Creighton Cohn of Olivette and a student at Ladue Middle School. 

“I can’t imagine not having parents, or being bounced from temporary family to temporary family,” she said.

For one of her mitzvah projects, Leetal organized a group of friends to volunteer at the coalition’s Training Extravaganza. It is a daylong training session for foster parents, providing them with the extra hours of training needed to keep their licenses. Unfortunately, baby-sitting is not provided. 

Leetal and her friends lifted the spirits of the 3- and 4-year-olds they were assigned to. They started out playing with the kids, sang songs, danced and read stories.Later, they went outside to the playground, and Leetal led the children in parachute games. They all had so much fun and made great connections with each other.Leetal and her friends also brought books for each child to take home, each leaving with three to four.

Shelley Thomas-Benke, director of FosterServe Volunteers, said Leetal and her family were wonderful. 

“A colleague said that she was more than impressed with Leetal,” Thomas-Benke said. “She jumped right in and led the activities, which were the highlight of the day for the 3- to 4-year-olds.My colleague was so pleased with how well the girls connected with the preschoolers, she asked me to invite the group back to volunteer again at our next event.” 

Leetal and her friends did go back and had a great time, hoping to return next year.

Birthday Buddy is another program of the foster care group. 

“I found out that many foster kids don’t get birthday presents,” Leetal said. 

As a Buddy, she “adopted” a little boy. 

“My friends and I gathered presents for him to receive on his second birthday,” Leetal said. “I look forward to getting presents to him every year as he gets older. And I know that many kids arrive in foster care with literally only the clothes on their backs, so I am also donating clothes for them.

“Because my grandmother, Yaya, died from leukemia, I also supported the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. This past April, I helped stuff hundreds of eggs with candy and toys for their annual Hunt for a Cure event to raise money to help find cures for blood cancers. It was my first experience with Easter eggs and I had no idea how hard they were to open.”

Leetal also has been volunteering at the Developmental Child Care Center in Dogtown. For the past few years, she has spent her summers and school breaks working with the Safari Room kids, ages 3 to 5. 

Mary Brodsky, program director of the Safari Room, said Leetal is fabulous. 

“She gets right in there with the kids doing pretend play, reading and drawing pictures,” Brodsky said. “Leetal made the kids rubber band bracelets, and they loved them.”

Leetal said: “I like helping out the teachers because a helping hand is always appreciated when working with preschoolers, and I love working with the children, teaching them each to be a mensch.”