You have a very unique ability to bring everything in life into perspective and put a smile on the face of everybody you come into contact with. Hopefully, the word will get out, and your wonderful program will eventually be part of every school’s curriculum. This is a little example of how one person, your son Jacob, and you of course, can “change the world”.
– Robyn Shiner –  former Vice-Principal of General Studies at Netivot HaTorah

I am writing this letter to tell you a little bit about how Project Giveback has worked out at our school and the impact it is having on our students and families.

We have two Grade four and one Grade 4/5 classes participating in this inspiring program. The children are highly motivated to research a local charity of their choice and have in some cases brought in guest speakers as part of their presentations. Visual presentations in the form of posters with pertinent information from the child’s perspective are posted on a rotating basis in the hallway so that all staff and students can see the evidence of the children’s work.

On occasions that I have been able to attend the oral presentations and the games and activities the children have planned as fundraisers, I have been particularly impressed not only with the presentation skills and obvious passion of these nine and ten year olds, but also with the engagement and attention of the rest of the students in the class. It has also provided opportunities for families to join with their children in trying to make a difference in our world in a meaningful way. This is one of those school experiences that I am sure all the students will remember for a long time because of their real sense of accomplishment.

Because of the connection to the Ontario Curriculum, the classroom teacher is able to evaluate the oral presentations based on Language expectations. The Project Giveback teacher also provides an evaluation that highlights the commitment and passion demonstrated by the student in a special award type format that I am sure students will keep.

Ellen Schwartz is to be commended for developing such a student centred program to increase community awareness and empathy for those less fortunate. We will definitely commit to having the program in the school again.
– Jennie Uchar – Principal Allenby

You have no idea how thrilled I am with what you’ve accomplished with the kids this year. I think it’s THE most outstanding programme and I am sooooo happy that you picked Crestwood to deliver your program to and that I chose to have you do it….one of the best decisions I ever made!
– Dalia Eisen Principal of Crestwood School

First off, let me say how amazing your program is, and how wonderful it is to see how the students have just taken to it.  You are inspiring, and your positive attitude is fantastic.  If you have any pictures that you would allow me to have for my students (only 4A), then I can put them on my website.

Thanks so much,
Marilyn – a grade four teacher

We have met a few times this year while you have been working with our children’s class on Project Give Back, and first of all I would like to thank you and commend you.  Through all of your efforts you have been able to reach my son, on so many levels.  He is so much more willing and compassionate to helping others and thoughtful of the positive effects that your organization can create, it is really unbelievable.  Through some difficult changes in his world I sensed that he had lost some of that compassion, he was unhappy his world had been disrupted so much and he still struggles with his feelings daily.  However, through your program, he has been able to realize life is not always as perfect and understands often it can be difficult.  He also realizes he is not alone, but rather that happiness can be possible through giving and the kindness of others.  Words can not express my gratitude to you.   On the commending side, I admire you, with all the challenges you have been faced with and turning them into such positivity and adversity; your family must be so proud and certainly very lucky!

On that note, I am very proud that my son is able to participate in making a difference for others and realizing he can make a difference for himself as well.

Thank you so much for spending time with our kids and giving them the tools they need to be the future leaders of our community.  Emma loved working on project give back and each week she comes home with a different story about what the other kids have done for their projects.  Your generosity and spirit are humbling.  Thanks for inspiring Emma.

Ben really enjoys the project give back component of his education.  He is really looking forward to presenting his POGO findings.  Thank you for inspiring him.

I just wanted to tell you how much Jake is enjoying this program.  It is the topic of conversation in this house constantly!! We are presently trying to think of an activity for him to do when it is his turn. What you are teaching these children could never be taught in school and I truly believe speaking for Jake it will stay with him forever.  Your are an incredible person to take something so personal and help everybody you touch. Thank you!!

I don’t know if Jake told you this but he took his change and we are going to Baycrest tomorrow to make a donation.

Ellen, this has been an incredible learning experience for Josh. We want to thank you for your kind words in your letter to Josh (it is framed in his room) and for bringing this enriching program in our school.
A grade four parent

I am Haley and Alexis’ mom, Tracy. The girls have thoroughly enjoyed working on Project Give Back. It has been so wonderful seeing their levels of interest throughout this activity. Thank you for all of the time and energy you put forth.
A grade four parent

Thank you for all of the amazing work that you are doing with the children.  I feel very fortunate that Shira is able to participate in your outstanding program.  I think that the lessons taught through Project Give Back are very important and the regular school curriculum did not come close to teaching the kids what your project is teaching them.  The children are learning about all sorts of important needs in the world that the charities try to provide.  It opens up the children’s eyes to appreciate what they have (that many people take for granted) and see what they can offer – give back to the community and people in need.  I really enjoyed both days that I came to the class to watch Project Give Back.  You are very inspiring and amazing with the kids.  Your enthusiasm for the program is amazing!  I think that you make the world a better place by doing what you do.  You are an inspiration!

Thank you,

Thank you so much for your updates on Erin and Alison’s progress in your project give back class. I was very impressed with their enthusiasm and excitement regarding the charities that each girl had chosen to represent. Although both girls enjoy school, I don’t think I have ever seen them so eager to get to their homework as they were this time. Your class has really given them a keen understanding of how charities work. I am truly amazed at how their organizational skills were sharpened by your incredible guidance and teaching. Your program has shown these kids so much beyond the classroom and will play such a huge role in all of their future endeavors. I hope this program continues for many years to come.

Thank you again for all of your hard work and devotion.

All the best wishes to you and your family,
Heather Shear parent of John Ross Robertson Public School children

Thank-You again for committing yourself to such a worthwhile project. It was such a nice opportunity for Beth to really get a feel for fund raising, and how important it is to give of ones self. We had a really great experience working on this, and it was a meaningful and  fun experience for her (as well as me!)Honestly Mrs. Schwartz, G-d should bless you, and your family for all the good you do, you are an inspiration to a generation of children who are growing up in such a challenging world. Keep up the great work! You are highly admired!

Best Regards,
Deena Oziel

A letter to the classroom teacher from a grade four parent:
Judy, I just wanted to let you know how much Zach enjoyed Jacob’s visit yesterday.  I asked how his day was and the first thing he said was “I met Jacob!” He proceeded to tell me all about him and the things he could do (including listen to stories and move his arms), how Jacob was similar in size to Zack, and he explained that his brain just couldn’t always send the right signals.  He was so excited.  I was hoping you could pass along to Ellen my thanks, not only for yesterday’s visit, but in general for the fantastic learning experience Project Give Back is providing.

Ellen – thanks so much for sending the pictures.  Rachel worked so hard on her presentation and was very proud of herself, and felt really good that she will be able to send some money (and bookmarks) to other kids.

She has truly gained an appreciation of ‘giving-back’ and feels proud that she can help. Your program is fantastic and we really appreciate all your efforts!

Thanks again!
Natalie and David

Your charity has really opened up my heart and told me how fortunate I am to have a great family, great friends and to love in a special country like Canada.
– Adam – A grade 5 student

You taught us how to live and love.
– Charles – A grade 4 student

My favourite moment was at the end of my presentation when everybody clapped and I felt good and proud of myself. – Andrew – A grade 4 student

I loved everything that we did because I learned so much about charities and it was such a fun way to learn about things that we should learn about.
– Hannah

Something that I really liked was when everybody presented and it was sweet because they were all helping and that’s what Project Give Back is all about.
– Jessica

I liked when Jacob came in because I got to learn about his life and I never saw some one like that before.
Noah – Grade 5 student

My favourite part is when people present because we get to learn about all different types of charities and what they do to help people.
– Ariel Grade 5

“One of the things that I liked best this year was Project Give Back. I felt really responsible and I learned that it feels so good to help others.”
– A grade four student

I liked all of the presentations and activities because it was fun and people put a lot of effort into it.
– Ben

I liked learning about every body’s charities because it was really interesting and the games were fun too.
– TJ

My favourite part of Project Give Back was like everything. It was worth learning everything from everyone. My favourite part about doing my charity was getting the game organized and making the bristol board.
– Jordan Grade 5

I liked the games because they were fun.
– Ryan Grade 5

Project Give Back has been a valuable tool for helping students connect and engage with Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Through this program, we enjoy giving tours and speaking with students who want to learn more about the hospital and the cause of childhood disability. It is rewarding to know that these students will be educating their classmates, developing their communication and presentation skills all while helping raise awareness about kids with disabilities. Project Give Back is a great initiative that instils compassion and caring for others.
– Alison Gittins, Community Engagement Assistant, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation

We were thrilled to be part of Project Give Back this year and were excited that so many children chose to support SickKids through this amazing program. Project Give Back provides an excellent opportunity for children to learn about the many charities that help families in the communities they live in and provides a fun way for kids to learn valuable life skills through their fundraising efforts. The many letters and photos we received from the children who supported SickKids were fabulous and we wish you much success over the 2009-2010 school year.
– Penny Kroll. Development Officer, SickKids Foundation

“I wanted to also tell you that I think Project Give Back is a fabulous program and students that get to participate are truly fortunate – as are the charities that are given the opportunity to work with them. I enjoyed working with Aliza very much – so much that I even miss hearing from her! Thank you for creating such an amazing program.”
– Keiko Okutsu, Development Associate, Events, Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation


Project Give Back has made lots of kids think about giving more than receiving.
– Bev

“Our daughter now has a teacher who brings an added bonus to the class by exposing them to life outside the classroom with the trials and triumphs of her son’s illness and has lit within her students a spark of compassion and strength in times of challenge, which no textbook could teach them.”
– A parent of a grade four student

“As a member of the teaching profession myself, I can with confidence say that you are truly an exemplary teacher and I have learned much from your approach this year.”
– An elementary teacher

“Your warmth, sensitivity and great teaching skills are very unique. Thanks for making our daughter proud of her achievements and teaching her that she can also make a difference in the world.”

“The person who I admire is my teacher from grade three Mrs. Schwartz. From being around her and knowing her I have learned to greet everyone with a warm and loving smile and I have learned to be happy no matter what that situation might be.”
– A grade 8 student

“Ellen Schwartz’s amazing life and story are the definition of inspirational. Facing one of those nightmare challenges that every parent dreads, Ellen not only tackled it but embraced it; and in doing so transformed herself into something extraordinary.”
– Jeffrey Alan Schechter, Writer’s Guild of America and Emmy Award nominated screenwriter.

“These days, with the news bombarding us with personal tragedy, how often do you come across someone who transforms hers into bettering the world? When I interviewed Ellen for Today’s Parent, I changed. Not simply because of her sad but inspiring experience but because she has that rare ability to tell her story to live her story by welcoming others into each day, each page, each chapter. After meeting her, I drove home to my suburban life, and threw myself inside all of its petty imperfections. And every time I am stressed or sad, I think of baking bread for someone else.”
– Randi Chapnik Myers, LL.B., LL.M., Freelance Writer/Editor

“Hearing Ellen speak for the first time, I couldn’t help but think how lucky we would all be to feel the peace that she feels and to have the strength that she has! If she could spread her message worldwide – what a gift it would be!”
– Josie Stern, Sutton Group Realtor

“Ellen Schwartz has a remarkable and awe-inspiring story to tell. As a mother, one cannot fathom how someone can watch their child getting sicker and sicker, let alone how she can come out from the experience with a smile and such incredible words of wisdom. I think that Ellen inspires others to deal with the curves life throws at them, to be more appreciative of what one has and to place issues in perspective. Ellen’s story is compassionate, tender and inspirational.”
– Bronwyn Shepherd – Director – The Jewish Family Institute

“I have heard Ellen Schwartz speak on more than one occasion and each time it had a dramatic effect on me. Ellen has the all too rare ability to turn a weakness into a strength, to see a glass as half full as opposed to half empty and to inspire her peers to do the same. Objectively, Ellen has faced the ultimate misfortune in her personal life; nevertheless, she manages to embrace her circumstances with love, understanding and a passionate ambition to change the world. Her contribution to medical research through the “Jacob’s Ladder” charitable foundation is nothing short of admirable. Her unique blend of “seven habits” to get through the day are genuinely inspiring. Her testimonials have changed me as a person – the way I look at life, the way I view myself and others and the way I tackle adversity.”

“Ellen Schwartz has changed my life. Having worked as a clinical social worker in two AIDS Centers and one Burn Center, I have worked closely with and met many individuals and families coping with crisis and life-threatening illness. Meeting Ellen was different…vastly different. Watching her interact with her three children has provided “teachable moments” that have challenged my beliefs and changed me both personally and professionally. She is a treasure to her community and to all those who come in contact with her. Her gifts are too numerous to mention however one needs to clearly understand that if you are expecting to meet a person who is going to make you feel depressed, scared, overwhelmed or sad you are dead wrong. Ellen is sunshine! She is the most positive yet realistic person I have ever met and one of the best teachers I have ever had.”
–Marianne Bennett-Altschul, B.S.W., M.S.W. C.S.W.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and all the members of our YPO Western Ontario Chapter, thank you for being one of our keynote speakers last weekend in Quebec City at our Chapter Retreat. Your gracious presentation and accessible style hit just the right note with our members and their spouses. Thank you for being so open about your family’s journey and for sharing the lessons you have learned. It was wonderful to see so many of our members so deeply engrossed in your book, “Lessons from Jacob”, the day after your presentation.”
–Lori Ryerson

“On behalf of Torah High we wanted to thank you for coming to speak at our Family Dinner. It was so wonderful to look around the room at over the 200 people present and see how beautifully you captured the attention and hearts of both the parents and their teens. You were able to draw every individual into your story and I know that they all left the room feeling changed.”
– Shoshana Newman, Vice- Principal

“I am certain that the strong attendance was generated in large part because you were our guest speaker. Many women who attended lingered after the program to share the experience of having made a connection with your hopeful message.”
– Maxine Bessin, Director of Women’s Campaign and Advocacy, UJA Federation