Since June 2020, Ethan Endelman has raised nearly $15,000 and with the help of his friends, has distributed almost 600 Balance Boxes to local recipients
By Jennifer Lovy
Photography by Darrel Ellis
Most teens will look back at the summer of 2020 as a time when Covid-19 crushed their plans of hanging out with friends, participating in sports, and going on trips or to camp.
Ethan Endelman, a 15-year-old from Bloomfield Hills, will remember it as the time he decided to do something for those less fortunate than himself. Along with some friends, he started a local chapter of a youth-led nonprofit born at the beginning of the pandemic to provide students in low-income areas with fun and educational supplies, activities, and snacks.
The nonprofit, called Balance Boxes, was the brainchild of two Chicago-area teens looking for a way to help those most impacted by school closings during Covid. Now, with 55 chapters worldwide, Ethan’s Detroit branch was among the first established outside Chicago. Since its inception in June 2020, he’s raised nearly $15,000, and he and his friends and volunteers have distributed almost 600 boxes to local recipients, including Detroit Merit Charter Academy, the New Paradigm School, and the after-school program at Life Remodeled, both based in Detroit. “This is my first time doing something like this, and I’ve learned so much, like how fortunate I am to have some things I don’t even think about that others don’t have,” he says. “I also learned how easy it is to give back and how important it is because we take all this stuff for granted.”
Ethan, a rising sophomore at Bloomfield Hills High School, heard about Balance Boxes through his mom, Alyssa Endelman, who knows the mother of one of the organization’s co-founders. Alyssa echos her son’s sentiments while describing him as a “caring, aware, and sensitive kid who appreciates what he has and likes to give back where he can. It can be challenging for kids to find these opportunities, so he created his own.”
Ethan is quick to acknowledge the rest of his team, a group of five friends — all rising sophomores — who became actively involved with the organization after its initial founding. Together, the teens secure in-kind and monetary donations from businesses and individuals and recruit other teen volunteers to help pack and deliver the boxes. “He built an entire team and has held a great leadership role in helping organize everything for the Michigan chapter, including coordinating donations from different companies, and planning and executing packing parties and fundraisers,” says Samantha Feinberg, a Chicago-area teen and co-founder of Balance Boxes. “Ethan’s passion for Balance Boxes is really evident, and he’s made a big impact in the Detroit area and worked really hard,” she adds. “His passion shines through. I could see it in photos from their (box) packing parties. As hard as he was working, you could see that he really enjoys what he’s doing in his smile.” As Ethan says, “It’s fun to do this with my friends.”
Earlier this year, Ethan’s efforts captured the attention of Livonia-based manufacturing giant Masco Corp., which featured Balance Boxes as a charity of the month, matching employee contributions to the organization. (The $15,000 Ethan has raised doesn’t include the Masco contributions; the company is unable to share how much it’s raised at this time.) Corporate support has also come from Better Made, Zee Zees, Why Bars, Whisps, and Barilla, in response to Ethan’s emailed requests.
This summer, Ethan finds himself busier now that he can hang out with friends and attend a nearly month-long sports camp. Still, he keeps up with the demands of his passion project. “I’ll pause for camp, but once everyone is back, we will start packing boxes for the new school year,” he says, adding that his goal for the upcoming school year is to donate approximately 200 boxes every three months while expanding the number of business contributions. With everything he’s accomplished within the last 14 months, what is Ethan most proud of? He says it’s the hard work he’s put in, along with the help and tremendous efforts of his family, friends, and “all the other people who make this happen. Helping others and knowing you’re impacting other people’s lives can make you feel really good about yourself.”