Hello everyone! I know I really owe you a blog post and an update so I figured there’s no time like the present. But so much has been happening at YALDAH…where should I start? I guess I’ll start where I left off. Which was…uh oh…gulp…my last post was Purim? I guess I have a LOT of catching up to do. I hope this post won’t be too long!

Ok…I can handle this.
After Purim I continued my regular work at YALDAH…pulling the issue together, editing, layout, updating the website, answering e-mails…I had a wonderful month long vacation at home for Pesach, when I also started driving! Being away for school makes finding time to practice driving. As of now I’ve finally finished all my driving hours…and now I just have to find time to schedule the driving test.

The next big excitement at YALDAH came with Idea Cafe’s Small Business Grant. After qualifying as a semi-finalist, and urging all YALDAH readers to vote for me, YALDAH won $1000 to cover the costs of distributing to bookstores and launching Project Pass It On (more on that later).
Here’s a photo of me holding the $1000 check.

The rest of the school year flew by, and I managed to get through finals without too much stress. I came home for the summer and worked intensively on YALDAH. I began working on the three YALDAH books that will be released in Fall 2009. Chavie Resnick and I spent a few full days cooking & testing recipes & crafts for a girls craft & recipe book. Here’s a photo of us with some of the results (whatever hadn’t already been eaten!)

Distributing YALDAH to bookstores meant a lot of more expensive changes (who would think getting a bar-code costs over $300?!) as well as switching to a more expensive printer. With all these costs, YALDAH’s budget was getting more and more behind. At one point I had to pay over $1000 of my own money to print the next issue….leaving me with over $7000 to raise to print the next issue. I knew it was time for major fundraising.

This experience taught me two valuable lessons:
1. There’s a concept called “Yerida L’tzorech Aliya” – that somtimes you have to go lower in order to go higher. Like when you bounce a ball, you have to throw it down so it will bounce up higher. Reaching this very low point at YALDAH caused me to ‘bounce’ sooo much higher than I ever was before.
2. Hashem (G-d) runs the world, and everything is in His hands. As much as I was trying, I knew it wasn’t up to me. If Hashem wanted YALDAH to succeed, I’d need some big change.

And that’s what I got. :-)

Right away opportunities began opening up. After months of searching for an advertising manager, the perfect candidate, Lynn Cutler, came right to me. She took over the burden of advertising and has been doing an amazing job. Thank you Lynn!

I started fundraising and sending out letters to many people asking them to become sponsors. I launched the YALDAH Auction, and was touched by so many people and companies who were delighted to donate prizes. (Don’t forget to buy a ticket!)

Then had the idea for a project that would unite Jewish Girls with goodness, and overnight Project Pass It On was born. By the next day I had a web designer designing the website, and had put in an order for wristbands. To find out more about it visit www.yaldah.com.

I got a great surprise a few days before I headed off to the Summer Retreat! I received a letter in the mail that I was a weekly winner in the Wells Fargo Someday Stories contest and on $1000! My mom had entered an essay in the contest, and although I still needed to do a lot more fundraising, $1000 would definitely help.

The Jewish Girls Summer Retreat…The retreat really deserves it’s own post, there’s no way I can do justice to it in a few sencences. All I can say is that I urge EVERY single Jewish girl to take part of this life-changing experience. It’s my 5th retreat and I always think it can’t get any better…and then it does. The exciting and adventerous trips, seeing girls shining and using their talents in the creative clubs and production, getting inspired from how much girls are growing and learning, the strong friendships and unity between Jewish girls from all backgrounds, from all over the country. My bunk was 12-13 year old girls, and we’re still keeping in touch with a conference call every week. I also lead a graphic design and writing workshop, and was editor of the camp newsletter. Wow, I can’t wait for the winter retreat. Check out the website where you can see lots of photos and more info: www.jewishgirlsretreat.net.

The most exciting news actually came while I was at camp…in fact, I was on a scavenger hunt in WalMart. My cell phone rang and the conversation went something like this.
Me: Hi.
Mom: Hi…where are you?
Me: I’m on a trip in WalMart.
Mom: Oh so I guess you’re not sitting down…
Me: Huh?
Mom: I have some news…you might want to sit down…
Me: I can’t really sit down.
Mom: We won $10,000!

And so it was. YALDAH was one of five finalists in Wells Fargo’s Someday Stories contest and won $10,000. They were coming to my house to present me with the prize and video me a week after camp. And, whichever finalist gets the most votes will win $100,000!!! Goodbye fundraising for $7000. Thank you, Hashem!

Within a few minutes the rumor spread, although at first everyone thought I was joking. The customers in WalMart tried to pretend they weren’t watching as all the other counselors and campers hugged me and asked over and over again how much I had won. Here’s a photo of me in WalMart a few minutes after I heard the news.

I returned home after camp and had to quickly catch up on all the e-mails I missed, and prepare for Wells Fargo’s visit. And then they came. An entire crew of over ten people to make a 3 minute video. There was the project coordinator, the financial professionals, videographers, photographers, sound people, lighting…It took almost two hours just to set up the sound and lighting for an interview in my house. Then…they came down my street and pulled up sitting in a…STAGE COACH! They presented me with a giant $10,000 check (as well as a real one!), a mini stage coach and lots of Wells Fargo Balloons. You can watch this all, along with an interview with me & my mom at www.wellsfargo.com/somedaystories (and of course don’t forget to VOTE!). Here’s a photo of me depositing the $10,000 bank, and my wonderful bank.

I returned back to school as a Senior, but I feel like I was hardly there before I was back home again on vacation for the High Holidays. The Someday Stories Contest turned out to be a huge campaigning job! I’ve been sending out press releases, doing interviews, I’ve been on the radio, and was just in the Boston Jewish Advocate this week. Many Jewish blogs have written about the contest, and there’s a facebook group to vote for YALDAH. Carolyn of jugglingfrogs.blogspot.com has helped me such much and put so much time and energy into publicizing the contest and making sure we get votes. And thanks to everyone who votes, we’re still in the lead! In addition to the $10,000, the contest has given me so much publicity, so that so many new readers have found out about YALDAH. Keep it up & make sure to spread the word!

The Fall issue was mailed out and people are starting to get it now. It looks great with the new printer (and of course make sure to check out the fancy barcode!). This issue is in bookstores around the country (and coming to Jewish bookstores soon)! Project Pass It On has united over 100 girls so far and this is just the beginning. And I just read the first chapter of the novel we’ll be publishing, and boy am I excited to read the rest!

Wishing you a happy sukkot and I hope to share good news with you very soon! Although Moshiach coming right now would be the best news, winning $100,000 will be pretty good :-)

I look forward to updating you on this blog MUCH more frequently!

Leah :-)