When many young Jewish men and women choose their bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah projects, some decide to tutor or volunteer in a soup kitchen.
When 13-year-old Miles Menuck, a Birmingham resident and student at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills, chose his community service project last summer, he decided to follow his obsession: candy.
By working more than 100 hours at Birmingham’s downtown candy shop, , Menuck was able to convert his work hours into approximately $650 worth of “candy credits,” all of which Sweet Things owners Walter and Stacey Stone donated to a Kids Kicking Cancer "candy party" in March.
“Before, Miles just liked candy a lot,” Stacey Stone said, with Walter adding, “Then, he took his passion and made it something so non-mundane.”
According to Menuck, a member of the Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, he decided to focus his bar mitzvah project on a cancer organization after his grandmother died of the illness. That’s when he discovered Kids Kicking Cancer, a Detroit-based nonprofit that offers martial arts classes for children with cancer, a way to ease the pain as well as heal “physically, spiritually and emotionally.”
During a special party March 21 in Detroit, Menuck presented his candy donations to approximately 20 youths in the Kids Kicking Cancer program, all of whom demonstrated their martial arts skills.
According to Cindy Cohen, the Michigan program director for Kids Kicking Cancer, the youths showed Menuck their "power breathing" technique, which Cohen said is used to help cancer patients get through particularly challenging experiences, like illness or hospitalizations.
“I was really impressed with their strength,” Menuck said. “At the end, I forgot they had cancer.”
But raising the money to purchase and then donate that candy took time — a whole summer, in Menuck’s case. At the beginning of summer 2011, Menuck was only 12 years old. However, as a frequent visitor of Sweet Thing, he was already intimately acquainted with the shop (his favorite candy are Milk Duds and Curly Whirlys).
Stacey and Walter Stone said by the end of the summer, Menuck had worked far more hours than originally planned and could basically run the shop by himself.
“He’s an exceptional kid,” Walter said. “He’s brilliant.”
In the end, the Stones tallied the number of hours worked and turned that into candy. Sweet Thing ended up donating two candy cakes, 20 cupcakes and more than a dozen bags of candy.
On top of that, Menuck continues to donate to Kids Kicking to Cancer through the checks he received at his March 24 bar mitzvah.
"Miles' mitzvah project meant a lot to our Kids Kicking Cancer students," Cohen said. "We truly appreciate him thinking of our organization. It gave our kids a break from their medical treatments, a great highlight for their week, and a chance to teach Miles and his family the techniques they learn to help themselves through their treatments."
Menuck got something out of it, too. “I couldn’t be more proud of (this project),” he said. “It really was a labor of love.”
Coming up, Kids Kicking Cancer will be hosting a community event at the Berman Center in West Bloomfield on June 28, where students will talk about the organization.
Also coming up is the Bike or Walk for Kids Kicking Cancer on Aug. 21 at the Waterford Hills Raceway. To register, visit http://kkcrider.eventbrite.com.
To learn more about Kids Kicking Cancer, as well as the classes and programs they provide, visit www.powerpeacepurpose.com.