Published by the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey
FAMILY: Parents Sandra and Mitchell; sister Gianna, 11
SYNAGOGUE: Cong. M’kor Shalom
HIGH SCHOOL: Cherry Hill East
Favorite TV show: “Grey’s Anatomy”
Isabelle Berger has been baking dog treats and donating them to local animal shelters ever since she can remember. Inspired by her beloved beagles, Widdle and Luna, the Cherry Hill native started baking large batches of treats to donate to the Animal Welfare Association and the Animal Orphanage when she was still in kindergarten. “I loved delivering them to the dogs so much that I began to make it a tradition,” she said. “I would do that every month or so.”
At the onset of Covid, though, when Berger was quarantined, she brainstormed ways to do more for the community. Over a phone call with her best friend, Anjali Soni, they discussed how devasting it must be for cancer patients having to undergo chemotherapy treatment without the support and comfort of family. “It not only harms them mentally and emotionally but also physically because it could affect their recovery process,” Berger said.
So, in early winter 2020, the duo founded “Dog Treats For Chemo Care,” a grassroots charity organization. According to the Instagram page, their main goal is to put smiles on the faces of cancer patients and “help make this hard time a little easier.” They sell four varieties of dog treats: Peanut Butter with pumpkin, cheese, or banana, as well as a nut free option. All profits go directly toward making “chemo kits,” which are then dropped off in bulk at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Each kit is stuffed with items such as coloring books, card games, candy, and a homemade card. The youngest patients also receive a puzzle or Lego set. For older patients, journaling about their cancer experience can be mentally beneficial, so Berger includes one for each of them. Last year, they raised enough money to donate 50 kits. When they delivered them to CHOP in the beginning of September, a nurse later gushed to Berger about how popular they were. This year, they’re already on track to raise enough money to double, maybe triple their total number of kits. “Our goal is 500 kits a year,” she said. “We’re probably not going to reach that this year, but 2022 or 2023 we are looking at reaching that goal.”
Berger is also in the process of launching a website and reaching out to several local businesses about sponsorship opportunities. She takes pride in offering a fast service, in which customers can expect dog treats only a few days after ordering. “We are constantly baking,” she said. “There are weeks where I’m coming home from school every day and baking seven days a week.”
For most teenagers her age, transitioning to high school would be enough of a time commitment. But baking these treats, Berger said, helps her decompress after a long day. On top of baking nonstop, she’s part of the debate team, Model UN, art club, and contributes now and then to the “Eastside” newspaper. She enjoys science classes the most and tentatively aims to pursue a career in the medical field.
Judaism has played a strong role in Berger’s life. Last year she was a CIT at JCC Camps at Medford, where she’s gone the last eight summers. Through BBYO, she’s developed another community of strong Jewish friendships. “They’ve helped me embrace my Jewish identity,” she said.
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