In the first installment of our new series of Q&A sessions with individual donors, K.I.D.S. gets to know Mayer Dahan, a Los Angeles-based real estate developer with a passion for philanthropy.
How did you learn about Kids In Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S.)?
I’ve always liked the idea of helping people and standing up for the less fortunate. I started to entertain the possibility of establishing my own foundation, and I began researching for those charities that gave back the most. I wholeheartedly believe that any charity should decrease their expenses as much as possible in order for them to even qualify as a charity in the first place.
I eventually came across K.I.D.S. and I was genuinely surprised that only 3% of their donations are used for overhead expenses. I was also drawn to their passion for helping while not being overly concerned with self-serving endeavors. The powerful message that K.I.D.S. conveys globally, of caring for and improving the lives of children, is one that I want to be a part of.
Name a business leader you admire.
There are so many incredible business leaders that I admire, but the one that stands out is Mr. Haim Saban, the creator of the Power Rangers. Growing up in the ‘90s, I looked up to the Power Rangers: they were these everyday teenagers who morphed into extraordinary people. I never dreamed I would actually get to meet the man who created them.
I was at a Fourth of July party a few years ago, and I ended up at Mr. Saban’s Malibu home. We spoke briefly, and I was astounded by how much heart, passion, and dedication he has for his business endeavors and contributions to the world and the city he loves. I firmly believe in the importance of setting a precedent as a leader to ensure our youth grow and mature into successful leaders themselves.
It was an honor to meet someone who has done so much for the community, especially his Saban Free Clinic near Los Angeles. Haim Saban and I had a similar upbringing from humble beginnings, and he never forgot where he came from. To me, this is what true success stories are made of. Success is nothing without giving back to the community.
Was there a personal possession or toy that made a significant impact on you when you were a child?
My parents are first generation immigrants. They were so focused on our survival that many ordinary things, like toys, fell by the wayside. It’s expensive to move your family to a new city, and the language barrier created a whole new set of problems.
I was given a LEGO set and it’s funny how those small, colorful blocks changed my life. LEGOs allowed me to communicate with my parents in powerful ways, like some sort of connective tissue. They gave me a sense of expression, accomplishment, and allowed my creative mind to challenge itself by building structures and solving endless puzzles.
Looking back, I’m sure my parents were just happy I stayed out of trouble. But as a child, I saw amazing things and felt how accessible they could be. Who would have thought that something as simple as playing with blocks could instill the passion to build dream homes for families in need? I have, singlehandedly, been able to bring my Lego structures to life.
What do you think is the most pressing social issue America is facing right now?
The most pressing issue in America is poverty. Much of the American community has the misconception that poverty exists only in developing or Third World countries. In reality, it exists much closer than we think. Our community, myself included, can become so consumed with our day-to-day lives that we disregard the fact that the majority of the United States lives paycheck-to-paycheck.
About 23% of children live in poverty and nearly 16 million children do not live in households with adequate food supply. Children who grow up in such poor conditions suffer socially, psychologically, and more importantly, educationally. Education is vital for a child’s growth and development, especially in our current fast-paced society. If children don’t get the proper nourishment for their bodies and minds, they will be less likely to excel in their adult lives. I strongly believe that in order to properly invest in our future, we must invest in today’s children.
As a donor, how has the work that K.I.D.S. does inspired you?
K.I.D.S. has educated me on the hardships that children constantly face and how much work we have yet to do. I’m inspired by K.I.D.S. to donate my time and effort to provide opportunities for growth and success to children in need. I have witnessed too many families who have lost their homes, and I am dedicated to building affordable housing in the near future. Happy and beautiful homes shouldn’t be out of reach for families without millions to spend. Maybe I’ll even put a LEGO set in each unit. You never know how something small might ignite a spark that changes lives.
To learn more about Mayer Dahan and his work, visit www.mayerdahan.com