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Kids on Computers

Teen's efforts pay off as needy children get donated computers

By KIM McCOY Sun-Sentinel      
Web-posted: 10:43 a.m. Feb. 7, 2001

   Sometimes Christy Caruso can barely walk through her bedroom. The 16-year-old's room doubles as storage space for computers her company donates to needy children.
   "What if a child I gave a computer to is the next Einstein?" Caruso said. "What if he finds the cure for AIDS?"
   Caruso's father, Mike, helped her get a business license for Kids on Computers Inc. two years ago. The nonprofit, Delray Beach-based company acquires used computers from businesses and individuals. Caruso's brother, also named Mike, updates the software and rebuilds the computers with his friends.
   Caruso developed the idea for the business the summer she volunteered as a nurse's assistant at the Caridad Health Clinic west of Boynton Beach.
   "It made me sit back and think, 'I want to do something more,'" said Caruso, a junior at Pope John Paul High II High School in Boca Raton. "I thought of computers. I figured the whole world is running on technology. It's become a huge part of our lives."
   At first, she just gave computers to migrant families she met through the clinic, but she was only there for one summer. Since then, along with friends and family, she has spread the word about her business by posting fliers, calling and mailing letters to businesses, and handing out business cards from West Palm Beach to Miami.
   Caruso happened to call Gerstein & Gerstein, a law firm in Boca Raton, the same day they bought a new monitor. The Gersteins decided to donate their old one.
   "It was good timing," said attorney William Gerstein. "I figured I better donate it (rather) than have it sit in a closet at my house. Seeing how important computers have become in our society, if a kid can get a head start, that would make a positive difference."
   Families in need tend to find out about the business through word of mouth. Caruso has also found families through volunteer work she does with her school and church. Interested families contact her by letter or e-mail and describe why they need a computer. Typically, when financially strapped parents want to give their children computers for educational purposes, that's reason enough for Caruso.
   Tammy Fatica's 8-year-old son, David, received a computer on Christmas Eve. He was "shocked," Fatica said. When Christy delivered the computer, David didn't know it was for him.
   Fatica, a single mom, also has twin babies. She isn't working right now and says she wouldn't have been able to give her son a computer. Friends are teaching her how to use it so she can teach David. Caruso usually provides some basic instructions when she delivers.
    The company has given away 20 to 25 computers so far, Caruso said. She and her friends pick up and deliver the computers themselves.
   On Christmas Eve, Caruso also delivered a computer to a Boynton Beach family with 10 children. They live in a trailer and told her the computer would be their only Christmas present.
   "They had a party for it," Caruso said. "They were so filled with joy. They were hugging and kissing us."
   Caruso, an honor student, fits the computer business in among varsity cheerleading practice, church and several school clubs. Her friend, Jennifer Hajj, also a student at Pope John Paul II, is one of several faithful volunteers.
   "What we use every day, we take for granted," Hajj said. "Little kids are in awe. It's an amazing feeling."
   Write to Kids on Computers Inc. at 1830 Lake Drive, Delray Beach, FL 33444 or send e-mail to KdsOnComputers@aol.com.
   Kim McCoy can be reached at kmccoy@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6631.
   

     

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