Mitzvot from the heart: Sydney Kolker

Zoe Klevens [Sydney’s sister], Melanie Gubernik, Kaylee Canoy, Julia Solomon, Brooke Taeckens and Sydney Kolker.  

Sydney Kolker, United Hebrew Congregation

After returning home from Union for Reform Judaism Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI) last summer, Sydney, daughter of Debra Klevens and Michael Kolker of unincorporated St. Louis County, decided to organize and execute a lemonade stand for her camp friend’s brother, Ethan Kadish. He was one of the three children struck by lightning at GUCI on June 29, 2013. Unfortunately, Ethan is still recovering at home just outside Cincinnati.

Sydney said her goal was to educate families about Ethan’s ongoing medical needs so she and a group of friends passed out informational flyers in the St. Luke’s Hospital parking lot, since it was close to home. “Even if they didn’t choose to buy lemonade, they could go home and consider reading his story and make a tax-deductible donation online,” she said.

Below is how Sydney described her mitzvah project in an email to the Light.

“I wanted to do this project because I still remember the day the lightning struck at Camp GUCI. While my life has continued to move forward in a positive direction, I feel terrible that Ethan and his family have been fighting an uphill battle. I remember the summer Ethan was struck by lightning; he was supposed to be bar mitzvahed that August.  I wanted to do something to support his family. As much as I loved doing the lemonade stand, my favorite part was going up to each car and handing them the card I created sharing Ethan’s story. I wanted people to know and understand what they were giving to. To me it wasn’t enough just to hold a poster and ask for donations. Ethan is an amazing young man with a story to share and I felt it was my responsibility to share it with our community. My friends and I raised over $450 that afternoon. I’d like to triple that by sharing my story. Knowing I helped in a small way, made me really proud.”

While Sydney, a student at Parkway Central Middle School, does not have a future event planned, Ethan’s needs continue. Those wishing to help can make an online, tax-deductible donation at 

Ethan’s progress has been far slower than his parents expected in the beginning. The fundraising website for Ethan notes that he is still unable to speak or move independently and receives all of his nutrition through a feeding tube, and needs a wheelchair and specialized vehicle to get around. The website notes that costs of Ethan’s care exceed $100,000 annually.

Mitzvot from the Heart is compiled by Editorial Assistant Elise Krug.