Recap: A Night of Inspiration


On Friday, November 13, Karma for Cara held “A Night of Inspiration,” a small fundraiser for family and friends, including some of Karma for Cara’s biggest supporters.

As the sun set on the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland, the guests arrived for a cocktail hour in an atmosphere full of love and warmth. The main attraction, however, took place once guests were seated for dinner.

We invited two young musicians from From the Top, an organization fostering amazing classical music talent and community service, to play and three of our youth microgrant recipients to speak.

After a brief introduction from Eric, Noah Lee, 15, and his sister Sydney Lee, 19, broke out their cellos for a truly incredible performance. The played Passacaglia and Julie-O and then spoke about what music and service mean to them. Thank you so much to everyone at From the Top, especially Jerry Slavet, for providing such a musical treat!

The rest of the night was filled with delicious food and amazing inspiration. Braeden Mannering, a 12-year-old from Delaware and founder of Brae’s Brown Bags, kicked off the interview-style presentations. When Braeden was 9, he saw a homeless man on the street and asked his mom how they could help. He started Brae’s Brown Bags later that day. He makes and distributes bags of snacks and water to homeless individuals and has become an advocate for ending hunger, speaking at schools, conventions, and even the White House.


Taylor Goodman Leong, a high school junior from Massachusetts, was up next. She started a holiday toy drive For the Love of Erika in honor of her friend Erika who passed away from brain cancer at a young age. Taylor saw how Erika would light up when she would bring her gifts, and the two decided together they would start a toy drive. Although Erika passed away before they could begin, Taylor has been running the toy drive for 11 years, bringing holiday gifts to kids in hospitals and shelters. She also hosts holiday parties for the children.


We closed the night with Laya Neelakandan, a 13-year-old from nearby Reisterstown, Maryland. Laya works with a group of first grade students at McDonogh School, leading them in activities to help the homeless. We were thrilled to learn that the first grade teacher Laya works with, who attended the event, was Jake Becker’s former teacher at McDonogh! Every six weeks, Laya gets together with the kids to discuss giving back and complete a service project, such as making blankets, trail mix, or winter kits for the homeless people of Baltimore. She then distributes the items. She explains it best:

“It’s a really great experience, because I get to talk to these men and women who are living on the streets of Baltimore city. And it’s so great, because through talking to them I’ve learned that they may have empty pockets, but they have full hearts.”


Everyone walked away from the night feeling inspired, encouraged, and with a renewed sense of the power of kids to change the world and feelings of hope for a bright future.

Special thanks to all of our speakers and performers, as well as our “A Night of Inspiration” sponsors and lead donors:

Eric, Jill, Greg and Jake Becker

Erin and Doug Becker

Margot, Larry, Gabrielle, Scott and Sara Lessans

The Macadoo Family Foundation c/o Larry and Ellen Macks

Robert Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker

Adam and Nancy Basner

Avy and Marcie Stein