In a generous display of maturity and compassion, one Jewish boy made his first deed as a man in his faith a great act of charity.
Joshua Neidorf, a 13-year-old boy from Los Angeles, Calif., donated a big portion of his bar mitzvah money to Operation Mend, a program that reconstructs the faces of severely burned U.S. veterans.
The young man decided to donate his birthday money after getting to know Army Sgt. Louis Dahlman, who was undergoing a series of jaw reconstruction surgeries at UCLA thanks to Operation Mend. The Niedorfs had signed up to be Dahlman's "buddy family," reports the Associated Press, spending time with him whenever he visited LA for a surgery.
"I just love knowing that it’s going somewhere … to help the people who save our lives and keep us safe everyday," said Neidorf to KCAL9 in the video above. His proud mother added, "It makes me feel like our world is going in a good direction with this next generation."
In all, Neidorf gave $13,000 to Operation Mend. He also encouraged his bar mitzvah guests to donate to the cause by screening a video of an interview with Dahlman at the party, reports KCAL9. He is the organization's youngest donor to date.
Operation Mend is a privately funded program that works in partnership with the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Philanthropist Ron Katz, a board member at the hospital, founded the program in 2006 after seeing a CNN segment about Aaron Mankin, a Marine veteran who had gone through dozens of surgeries after an I.E.D. in Iraq completely burned off his face.
Mankin ended up being Operation Mend's first patient, starting the first of 20 reconstructive facial surgeries at UCLA in Sept. 2007. In a 2011 interview with The Huffington Post, Katz shared how his experience helping Mankin made him realize the need to establish a more permanent program.
"My wife and I soon realized that there were dozens of Aarons out there," Katz said to HuffPost. "These men and women deserve not only the best that the Defense sector has to offer; they deserve the best that the private sector has to offer as well."
All photos courtesy of Operation Mend.