Sally Berenzweig is always looking to what more she can be doing to help keep children safe.
As the co-founder and Chief Development Officer of Boca-based KidSafe Foundation, her goal is to build a safer community by educating children, parents and educators on the topic of child abuse.
Her work for the past 11 years is being displayed on an international platform thanks to L’Oréal Paris. The company is recognizing Berenzweig as one of 10 Women of Worth Honorees.
The finalists will find out if they are the overall “Woman of Worth” during a gala held in New York City on Dec. 4.
Inspired by the iconic L’Oréal Paris tagline, “Because You’re Worth It,” the philanthropic Women of Worth program honors the intrinsic worth of everyday women igniting positive change in their communities and championing self-worth in others. With diverse stories born from personal experiences, the 2019 Women of Worth represent a range of causes including empowering at-risk teenage girls, supporting survivors of conversion therapy and helping parents of children with learning disabilities to navigate the special education system.
“I am so honored that I am even an honoree,” Berenzweig said. “It’s huge for KidSafe Foundation. It’s life changing for our organization. I have been on cloud 9.”
The nomination landed the nonprofit a $10,000 donation from L’Oréal. If she wins the overall honor, KidSafe will receive an additional $25,000 to help fund its community work.
Berenzweig, a former teacher and psychotherapist, started the nonprofit after she had a frightening experience. It wasn’t an experience with a child she was working with, but one she had with her own son that left her feeling ill-equipped on ways to keep her son safe. She had left her son, who was 3 at the time, with a trusted babysitter.
Somehow, her son managed to walk out of her home and wander away five blocks without the sitter noticing. A stranger found her son crying on the street and took him into his car. Luckily, she said the man was helpful and brought him back home safely. But the experience rattled her as a mother.
She met Cherie Benjoseph, a social worker, who then became a co-founder of KidSafe.
“We had no intention of starting a nonprofit,” Berenzweig said.
But when they found out that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually exploited by the age of 18 and that 90 percent of sexually abused children knew their abuser, KidSafe Foundation was born.
One of the signature programs KidSafe offers is an eight-lesson curriculum that certified instructors teach in schools to kids ages 4 through 5th grade. The program is modeled off of how fire safety prevention is taught, a serious scenario taught in a way that kids aren’t afraid. The lessons go over teaching kids that they have the right to be safe and how to tell an adult if someone if inappropriately touching them or abusing them.
The lessons, which are approved to be taught in schools in Palm Beach and Broward counties, are taught in a way that is not fear driven and uses role playing, art, songs and discussion.
In addition, KidSafe has online programming to teach adults on how to look for signs of abuse and talk to their children about it as well as for educators.
The nonprofit recently rolled out a new program for camp staff.
Since 2009, KidSafe has reached 60,000 kids and 35,000 adults.
Berenzweig said she has seen the impact of KidSafe work firsthand. A student going through the lessons told a teacher that a relative was abusing them. And because the student’s teacher had gone through KidSafe training, the teacher responded appropriately and the parents took the child to therapy where it came out that the relative conducting the abuse on the child was abused.
Because of KidSafe’s work, Berenzweig said the cycle of silence was broken.
“Every child has the right to be safe and to live a life free of childhood trauma,” she said.
Thanks to L’Oréal Paris, Berenzweig said the $10,000 donation will be earmarked toward the foundation’s signature program “Empower Me KidSafe.”
In addition to the monetary donation, the company is providing national paid media, educational and training opportunities, and a large-scale platform to share honorees’ stories.
A parent who had gone through the KidSafe program nominated Berenzweig for the honor.
“They are giving me an international platform to shine a light on child sexual abuse,” she said of L’Oréal Paris.“There aren’t a lot of companies that are so socially responsible. We need everyone working together. Every child is worth it.”
For more information, visit kidsafefoundation.org.