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When Robyn Kimmel heads out to a birthday party, she’s always super excited, but not for the reasons you might think. Kimmel isn’t an invited guest getting ready for some cake and ice cream – she’s there as the party’s main attraction, and she’ll be teaching the kids how to cook some of her favorite dishes.

The 17-year-old arrives at every party toting lots of cooking supplies and a few fun, kid-friendly recipes. As a special birthday treat, all the proceeds from the cooking class go to a charity the birthday child chooses.

2013-02-17-14.34.51Kimmel co-founded her nonprofit, Kids Cook 4 A Cause, with her brother, Ian, in 2008. She recruited a group of volunteers to attend each party to help teach a few recipes, step-by-step, to the children. They may make a small cake or chicken tenders. Kimmel says she loves seeing the pride each child takes in whatever they cook.

“These are little kids who haven’t really been able to cook for themselves or experience that feeling of independence,” she says. “Seeing their joy and excitement in like, ‘Ah, I decorated this thing all by myself!’ and being so proud of themselves, and then they get to eat their own creation – that’s fun.”

Kimmel says she started the nonprofit after growing up with a mother who mastered the kitchen and stressed the importance of helping others. “We wanted to find a way to give back, so we decided it felt natural to use our cooking skills to help people,” she says. “I’m lucky enough to have parents who really emphasize helping people. And to help others feel that same spirit brings me joy.”

Kimmel will attend Northwestern University this fall, where she’ll pursue an acting career. (She’s already had success as a performer – appearing last year in Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and organizing and appearing in a Broadway concert to benefit her nonprofit.)

Kimmel is now training younger volunteers to run the organization while she is away, but she says Kids Cook 4 A Cause will always have a special place in her life.

“Kids Cook 4 A Cause will always be in my heart,” she adds. “I will always be involved with it.”

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