CARLSBAD — The families of cancer patients struggle with a number of issues while caring for their sick children.
But a pair of Carlsbad High School seniors are making a difference through a partnership with the Ronald McDonald House in San Diego and the Dragon Kim Foundation.
Shayda Moezzi and Hannah Hong, both 16, launched Inspire C.O.D.E. (Creation of Dynamic Experiences) about four weeks ago at the Ronald McDonald House to provide an outlet for the siblings of ill children undergoing treatment at Rady’s Children Hospital.
Moezzi came up with the idea after her sister was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2016. The experience touched Moezzi as she witnessed firsthand what families go through with a child in treatment.
“I went through the whole thing with her,” said she. “What I got out of it was how many days of school and activities she had to miss and kids her age have to miss to be able to go to treatment. I tied in my passion for coding and my sister’s story to bring this project to fruition.”
Moezzi’s sister won her battle and has been cancer-free for the past two years. Moezzi recruited Hong, who also watched a loved one, her grandmother, go through cancer treatments.
The two teens are members of Carlsbad High School’s all-girls robotics team and last year, they started researching organizations to help them establish their program. They also recruited friends from their school and Sage Creek High School to assist.
“They want teenagers to run programs over the summer,” Hong said. “I was very happy to join this project. When they learn how to code, or their robot moves, they’re just so happy.”
They found the Dragon Kim Foundation, which is based in Tustin, and received a $5,000 grant to purchase robots and computers. The foundation was founded four years ago by Grace and Daniel Kim after their son, Dragon, and his close friend, Justin Lee, were killed during a camping trip when a large branch broke and crushed the boys in their tent while they were sleeping.
Grace and Daniel Kim visited the two girls on Aug. 12 to watch the students in action. The couple said they started the foundation to honor their son, who was starting a music program providing free instruments to underprivileged students in Santa Ana.
The foundation had 150 applications, selecting 20 to receive grants up to $5,000 for various community-based projects by high school students. The Kims said what they want to see is passion and creativity, while they help break down barriers such as financial costs and other logistics.
The awardees must also complete three weekends of training in the spring before launching their projects.
“We want to encourage kids to take whatever they’re passionate about and come up with an idea,” Grace Daniel said. “When she (Moezzi) came, she saw a lot of these kids had nothing to do. We want to see their real passion.”
Moezzi and Hong visit the families three to four times per week, providing tips on basic coding for the kids.
The program is unique to the Ronald McDonald House, said Thien Giang, director of marketing. One goal for the nonprofit is to put the families at ease by providing a stable environment with various activities and schooling opportunities.
But Inspire C.OD.E. is something the organization didn’t realize would be so engaging and opportunistic.
“These are the things the community offer up,” Giang said. “I’ve been here for five years and can’t think of a comparable experience.”
Photo Caption: Carlsbad High School seniors Hannah Hong, left, and Shayda Moezzi, middle, teach kids, including 6-year-old Jeovoni Iguel, coding at the Ronald McDonald House in San Diego on Aug. 12. The two girls summer philanthropy project was aided by a $5,000 grant from the Dragon Kim Foundation. Photo by Steve Puterski
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