March 30, 2023

Many students spend their high school years preparing for college or sharpening their athletic skills.
Anika Verma, a graduating senior at Newark Academy, created her own apparel company.
Dare2Dye includes an OPTIMISM line featuring rainbow patches, bright colors and smile-faced embroidery. It’s bringing smiles to a Morristown-based nonprofit, too. Verma is donating a percentage of her sales to the Kids2Kids Special Needs Mentoring Program, where she has been volunteering for about six years.
Established a dozen years ago, Kids2Kids strives to pair teen mentors with special needs kids to develop social interaction, independence, pride and basic skill development in a variety of settings.
Over the years, K2K has recruited hundreds of mentors from area school districts and sports programs. They share their talents and bond with kids on the autism spectrum who struggle to socialize, yet can do so in a safe environment.
“Through singalongs, yoga sessions, swim lessons, golf lessons, art and crafts, I have formed unbreakable bonds with both mentors and participants in our programs,” said Verma, who will be attending the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business this fall.
During the pandemic, Verma shifted gears to manage a variety of virtual programs for Kids2Kids. For her senior project, she also raised $1,500 for the K2K golf program by playing 100 holes with classmates Miller Burns and Luke Waskow.
“It is a real-world experience that tests your ability to find and develop your passions beyond the classroom,” Verma said, expressing gratitude to friends and family for their support.
Kids2Kids founder and Director Dave May is grateful as well.
“It’s students like Anika who think out of the box and develop a passion for our kids that sets this program apart from other opportunities,” May said.
“Kids2Kids is run by kids FOR kids.  We look for mentors who want to step up and build out opportunities that enhance our programming but also highlight their skills and talents,” he said.
Middle school and high school students interested in participating can learn more on the Kids2Kids website.
Programs are offered every night of the week, starting in September. Learning to communicate with special needs kids can develop helpful life skills.
“When I was training to become a mentor, I learned that the approach taken in each program and session needs to be combined with attention to cognition, social development and language,” Verma said.
“It is our responsibility to mentor the child in a safe environment so they can enjoy themselves while learning life-long skills.  And I learn from these sweet kids who inspire me!”


Leave a Reply