The Gift
For doers like Daniel Kaye, acts of kindness and connection shine light on a world of darkness.
by Bill Donahue

Daniel Kaye wishes people would get out of the mindset that they cannot make a difference. In his world, people would stop asking the question, “What kind of impact can one person have?”

Kaye lends his time and talents to numerous local organizations devoted to uplifting fellow community members—namely, Abington Citizens & Police Together, the Abington Community Taskforce, the Abington Educational Foundation, Abington Township Public Library, Eastern Center for Arts and Technology, the Montgomery County Suicide Prevention Task Force, and the Willow Grove branch of the NAACP. He recently completed a 12-year term as a school board director of Abington School District.
“When I started on the school board, I really didn’t know what was expected of me,” he says. “But I found that helping people made me feel good.”
The non-paid school board post required significant time and energy for weekly meetings, pre-meetings, and other obligations, and some interactions with the public turned contentious. All in all, though, he remembers his work on the school board as well worth it because of the progress made on behalf of teachers and students.
“The experience definitely changed me,” he says. “I learned that the public will sometimes hold you responsible for things you’re not responsible for, so it was hard for me to hear negative things about people who were there to help. That hardened me a little to the realities of the way the world is.”
As for the highlights of his time on the school board, Kaye says he’s most proud of the fact that he “survived it.”
“There were a million times I wanted to step down,” he admits. “It’s a lot of hours and a lot of energy, and for someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, there was a lot of triggering—talk of bullying, book banning, LGBTQ issues—all of which made me think: How have we not progressed? … Whatever happened, it still made me want to help people.”
One might say that Kaye helps people for a living. After a long career as a journalist, Kaye moved on to Rydal Park (now known as Rydal Park & Waters), a community for older adults in Jenkintown. Earlier this year he started a new job as director of community engagement, which he describes as “a crazy blessing I never expected to have.” He sees himself as a kind of professional “connector,” someone who’s responsible for engaging with different communities, both inside and outside of Rydal Park & Waters, and finding ways to fulfill their needs.
“I’m basically told to just go out and try to make a difference in the world,” he says. “What kind of better job can anyone ever ask for? It’s really a beautiful thing.”
Kaye, a talented writer and illustrator, has published a number of books under the pen name Daniel Sean Kaye—Never Underestimate a Hermit Crab, Never Take a Hermit Crab for Granted, and Never Tell a Hermit Crab We Can’t Repair the World, co-authoring the latter two—with proceeds going to charities. When and if he pens more books in the future, he says it will result in “a lot of checks written to different charities.”
“When I started out with a book publisher, I was not in it to make money for me; I wanted it to go somewhere,” he says. “I’d love to be rich and make $5 million a year, but if I did make that much money, $4.5 million of it would go to really great charities, and with that other half million I would use it to figure how to make money for other groups.”
The Abington resident credits his mother, Yvonne, for teaching him early on the importance of helping people who have less, are down on their luck, or otherwise struggling. At 90 years old, his mother continues to devote her time to philanthropic causes—and he intends to do the same for as long as he can. In turn, he and his wife, Wendy, have passed the same desire to their son, Aidan.
“He talks about helping people all the time,” Kaye says of his son, now 19. “He’s always connecting people as well, bringing people together. … Whether he’s doing a Halloween lighting event or anything he’s part of, he wants to raise money for charities, especially those that help animals. He’ll also do drives for food cupboards. Even at 19, he understands that there’s a lot of need.”
Kaye understands that many people see their busy schedules as prohibitive to getting involved, apart from the occasional donation of food or money.
“I was raised by a woman who has always given much more than she received back,” he says. “As for the ‘I don’t have time’ argument, maybe your life is more complicated than mine. I always had the approach that I would make time and figure it out.”
His advice for those who don’t know where to begin: Try not to do everything. Start small by contacting a local church, synagogue, or library, and ask about what they need or how to help. He also says local food pantries have immense need all year long, not just the months of November and December, when most people tend to make donations.
“At the end of the day, all we have is each other,” he says. “The thought of something I did contributing to someone feeling better about the world gets me through the day and through the dark times. If I’m surrounded by ugliness and selfishness, it does me no good; helping other people propels me forward.”
Despite the taste of politics he acquired through his time on the school board, Kaye has no future ambitions in the political arena. He does, however, like the idea of becoming a community leader on a local, regional, or even national level, driven by the mission to use people’s creativity to make a lasting difference in the world.
“I don’t feel any pride in anything I’ve ever done,” he says. “I think this is God or whatever telling me this is what I’m supposed to do. I just keep doing the work because it needs to be done—an unfillable pot of need. I don’t need to be recognized, other than to know that the people I’ve played a small part in helping are OK.”
Giving and Receiving
The Philadelphia area abounds with nonprofits and philanthropic causes devoted to addressing the “unfillable pot of need,” as Daniel Kaye describes it. Whether you want to protect children, save animals, lend support to those who are fighting deadly diseases, or honor members of the U.S. military, the following 10 locally based nonprofits prove that there’s no shortage of ways to get involved.
Friends for Heroes
A Newtown-based enterprise started in 2015 to honor and support members of the military, and their families, in the communities where they live.
Forgotten Cats
Based in Willow Grove and Wilmington, Delaware, Forgotten Cats takes a humane approach to helping the population of homeless cats through sterilization, vaccination, and adoption programs.
Live Like Blaine Foundation
A Bala Cynwyd-based nonprofit that offers transformative leadership programming and mentoring to the next generation of female leaders.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer
A national nonprofit based in Bala Cynwyd that provides resources, support, and other invaluable information to those who are coping with a breast cancer diagnosis.
Main Line Art Center
A nonprofit artistic hub in Haverford that helps communities grow, create, and experience joy through the visual arts.
Main St.
Formerly known as the Pine2Pink Foundation, a Doylestown-based nonprofit founded by Keith Fenimore lights up Bucks County towns every fall with pink lights, raising awareness and funds for those battling breast cancer.
Montgomery County Advocacy Project
A Norristown-based group working to prevent child abuse and neglect in Montgomery County through legal services, advocacy, and education.
PA Rhino Conservation Advocates
Headquartered in Media, a nonprofit devoted to saving rhinos in Africa, “one horn at a time,” and creating better circumstances for towns and communities around where rhinos call home.
Peter’s Place
Radnor-based center offering peer support groups and other specialized programming to help grieving children and families, founded in 2001 in honor of Peter Morsbach, who died suddenly at the age of 10.
Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation
Wynnewood-based nonprofit devoted to raising awareness and funds to help those affected by ovarian cancer, named for a local woman who succumbed to the disease more than 20 years ago.
Photo courtesy of Rydal Park & Waters/HumanGood
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life, December 2023.