Zina Linnik was only 7 years old the first time that she and her brothers and sisters came to the Champions Centre to register for Operation Blessing. The local program, funded by the Champions Foundation, sponsors children in need at Christmas time by finding donors, who then purchase Christmas gifts based on the child's wishes. A lavish party for the children and their families takes place just before Christmas, where the gifts are then distributed. The Linnik family, recent immigrants to the US, enjoyed the annual event for several years when the devastating news reached the charity leaders that Zina had been tragically kidnapped and murdered in the summer of 2006. The previous Christmas, Zina was the very first child in line on the opening day of registration. Her wish was to recieve a special bottle of perfume, and that wish was granted.
Operation Blessing founder and director, Pastor Sue Kahawaii, decided to keep Zina's memory alive last year by selecting a project that would benefit those who participate in the program and in the group's outreaches. Last December, each family was given a Guard A Kid identity thumbprint device to help families create profiles for all family members in case of emergency. The thumbprint device can give police and medical professionals the information they need immediately if an emergency arises. More than 1000 of the devices were handed out free of charge, after a local police officer stepped in and got involved. Kevin Roberts, owner of the local Guard A Kid franchise, donated the devices at cost.
This year, Operation Blessing will announce the establishment of a scholarship fund in Zina Linnik's name at it's annual party on December 22nd. The scholarship fund will benefit children and youth and will pay summer camp fees for eligible recipients.
Kahawaii said that by establishing this scholarship fund, she hopes to keep Zina's memory alive for years to come, as well as allowing disadvantaged children and teens the ability to attend summer camps and conferences. Zina's life was cut short by a senseless crime, but her memory continues to inspire others to find ways to help children and teens.