Special treatment

This dynamic duo dreams of a day when sick kids have their own freestanding hospital

Elizabeth Sherman, 18
St. Joseph’s Academy
Co-founder, 4thekids

Sydney Saia, 17
University Laboratory School
Co-founder, 4thekids

The seeds of philanthropy were planted in Elizabeth Sherman and Sydney Saia while they were in elementary school.

The next-door neighbors and lifelong friends would regularly host pop-up “restaurants” in their houses and put on singing and dancing shows, ask their customers to pay, and then donate the jars of penny proceeds to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

So it seemed only natural for them to expand their efforts when they found themselves on a tour of the hospital’s children’s facilities almost a decade later. There was talk of starting a women’s auxiliary group, but the teens asked to spearhead the effort themselves and to focus on a more youthful population.

Before they knew it, they were in a conference room brainstorming nonprofit names and logos. On the spot, 4thekids was born, with the mission of improving the services and facilities of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital and perhaps one day helping to build a freestanding facility in Baton Rouge. “Ever since we were little, we’ve always felt a connection to the children at this hospital. So when this opportunity came about, we grabbed it,” says Elizabeth, now a senior at St. Joseph’s Academy.

The new organization’s focus also hit close to home for the pair, who had recently seen some of their closest friends leave the state for medical care. “It’s so painful to see them have to go away and leave their support systems,” says Sydney, a junior at University Laboratory School. “Also, being an aunt to four amazing little children, I would want them to have the best care and facilities available to them if ever needed.”

With the help of close friends, including Andree Laville, who Sydney says “works so hard and never wants any credit,” the pair started their fundraising efforts by selling T-shirts and tank tops with the 4thekids logo. “That was really mostly to get the word out so we could start building toward bigger things,” says Elizabeth. Soon, they expanded their reach by designing and selling “coeur-sage” bracelets and boutonnires to students at seven local high schools, as an alternative to traditional formal-dance florals. More and more benefit events were added to the group’s schedule, from a concert to a cotillion ticket raffle to an estate sale. By the time the nonprofit celebrated its first anniversary last August, the girls had raised $5,000 to donate to the hospital. They hope that number will double this year.

Elizabeth and Sydney agree that their most memorable experiences with 4thekids are their interactions with the hospital’s young patients. “We feel for them, because we know it could be us,” says Elizabeth.

Adds Sydney, “To see who we’re helping and see it in action is really motivating.”

The thing that excites me most about my charitable work is meeting wonderful people and meeting the kids who will benefit from our work.

My inspiration comes from my dream of having a freestanding children’s hospital in Baton Rouge one day and being a part of making it happen.

If I could wave a magic wand and change the world, I would eliminate all discrimination and evil.

I wish other kids realized that we have immense power to make a difference in the world.

My greatest strength is caring for others and never giving up.

The thing that excites me most about my charitable work is that I know everything I’m doing is helping a child in need.

If I could wave a magic wand and change the world, I would make total world peace—there’s no reason that everyone can’t get along—and find cures for childhood sicknesses.

I wish other kids realized that it doesn’t take an adult or someone special to make a change—Elizabeth and I are just normal high-school girls who had a passion.

If someone tells me I’m too young to make a difference, I say anyone can make a difference if they want to. You just have to put your heart and mind to it, and amazing things will fall into place.