Bergen County teen creates organization to help kids with special needs during pandemic

A Bergen County teen is making a difference during the pandemic for hundreds of families with special needs.
Sara Mermel, a 15-year-old from Hillsdale, founded the organization Simple Needs.
“I make boxes for special-needs children. It’s called Simple Needs because it’s a simple thing you can do and it just makes the kids so happy and filled with joy,” she says.
Mermel, who will soon be a high school junior, started Simple Needs shortly after the pandemic began. She started collecting donations privately and through a GoFundMe for gift boxes that she designed, which are packed with toys and other goodies. She has delivered them to 400 special-needs children in the tri-state area.
“Showing them, people still care even though they can’t be in school because of the pandemic. And making their day and making it easier for the parents,” says Mermel.
Mermel says that the idea was inspired by her older sister Rachel, who has a developmental disorder and has been having a hard time with the shutdown.
Photos: The Heroes of the Coronavirus Pandemic

“These kids, a lot of them can’t really speak or show emotions, so it’s tough to be home from school, not with teachers or aides. And missing their friends,” she says.
Mermel’s mother Yana says that she is very proud of her daughter.
“It’s a really well thought out project. Her organizational skills, her empathy for others. I’m proud,” she says.
The boxes have been given to people age 2 through 21. Mermel sends them directly to homes or organizations that work with special-needs children.