11-year old donates iPads to BP’s Pathfinder School

Published Nov 26, 2013 at 9:57 am (Updated Nov 26, 2013 at 9:57 am)

When not focused on school and homework, most 11-year-old girls are thinking about clothes, makeup and Justin Bieber.

Not Sophie Levitt. She has her sights set on her bat mitzvah, which will take place June 20, 2015.

To become a “bat mitzvah,” or “daughter of commandment,” a Jewish girl must complete a project before the sacred event. For Sophie, a sixth-grader at Pittsburgh’s Obama Academy of International Studies, that project is Electronics for Autism.

Through Electronics for Autism, Sophie is raising money with the goal of purchasing 18 iPads and/or Nintendo game systems for autistic children in Pittsburgh and Israel.

Eighteen is the Jewish number for “chai,” or “life.”

Sophie’s inspiration for this project can be credited to her cousin, Marla, who lives almost 400 miles away in Syracuse, N.Y.

“My cousin uses an iPad a lot to help her learn, and I thought instead of doing something like donating money or food, I’d do something more personal to my family.” Sophie said her cousin also likes to cook and often uses her iPad to look up recipes.

On Nov. 20, during a presentation to students and staff at Pathfinder School in Bethel Park, Sophie made her very first donation of three iPads with protective cases to the school, which serves the needs of special needs students ages 5 to 21.

Addressing members of the staff and student body, Sophie thanked them along with her family and Luciana Randall, executive director of ABOARD’s Autism Connection of Pennsylvania. “My project, Electronics for Autism, is my small contribution helping to support the community through the donation of iPad devices, giving children on the autistic spectrum the opportunity to enhance their lives and learning experiences. Thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to come here today to donate three iPad devices with their protective cases.”

“Thank you very much for donating these iPads to our school. The kids love using them to learn new things. You are very kind and thoughtful to think of Pathfinder School,” said Mia, student council president.

One of the iPads was donated by and an uncle and one by a family friend. Sophie bought the third with money she raised through Electronics for Autism.

“We set up a PayPal account and I have my own bank account for this where people can send money to,” explained Sophie.

Sophie’s parents, Lee and Karen Levitt, expressed pride in their daughter. “Most people don’t take on this project until they get closer to their bat mitzvah, which is when they are 13. She’s 11 and she’s doing this,” remarked Mrs. Levitt. “I think she gets it because of her cousin. She understands how important this is. Not many 11-year-olds can do what she’s doing.”

Terri Surace, principal at Pathfinder, expressed the school’s gratitude. “This has been such a generous donation because it will enable many of our non-verbal students to express their wants and their desires in a way they’ve never been able to do before.”

Surace said that before Sophie’s donation, the school only had two iPads for 85 students. “We share them. Our speech teachers use them in classes and the homerooms sign them out, so it’s kind of limited.”

“We’re hoping to travel to Israel for her bat mitzvah and donate some of them in person,” said Mrs. Levitt. “Our Jewish community (Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill) has a sister-city in Israel, and we have a lot of connections there. So, that’s our goal.”

“This was such a wonderful donation,” remarked Surace. “My staff and I are just overwhelmed by Sophie’s generosity.”

To learn more about Electronics for Autism or to make a donation, visit www.ElectronicsForAutism.com or email Sophie directly at sophiebatmitzvah2015@yahool.com">sophiebatmitzvah2015@yahool.com.

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