Local teen siblings receive The President’s Volunteer Service Award (Gold)


Cathedral Catholic High School students and siblings Daniella Benitez, 15, and Gabriel Benitez, 14, were each recently awarded The President’s Volunteer Service Award (Gold level) through the locally founded nonprofit Build a Miracle Foundation (BAM), for volunteering well over 100 hours, each, with the organization.

The humanitarian Benitez siblings continue to make significant strides in changing the lives for families below the poverty line in spite of the current challenging climate, supporting BAM, founded by Chris and Julianne North. BAM fundraises and builds houses in Mexico for families who are either homeless or live in makeshift shacks without running water, electricity, plumbing, bedrooms, or working bathrooms and kitchens.

Build a Miracle

Build a Miracle founders Chris and Julianne North surprising Daniella and Gabriel with their awards.

To date, Daniella and Gabriel have collectively raised over $192,000 to build 12 homes, and counting, for families in need through fundraising and with her own hands. They have also engaged people of all ages from their community to donate funds, join them in fundraising (backpack sales, lemonade stands, washing cars, gofundme), and, before COVID, even traveled to Tijuana to physically build homes and connect with the sponsored families. The part that touches the hearts the most for these families in Tijuana time and time again is the kids and their friends’ desire to go down and build the homes with them.

The siblings’ efforts began when Daniella was 12 and her previous school, Notre Dame Academy in San Diego, sponsored the building of a home in Tijuana. After returning from that trip, she decided to commit to heading up the building of one home a year, herself. She connected with Chris and Julianne North, who have built over 370 homes through BAM since 1999. She assembled a 16-member team to each raise $1,000 towards the $16,000 needed to build a fully-furnished home. Her brother soon followed his sister’s lead.

Since then, the siblings have continued to raise funds, create teams, and build homes, even inspiring anonymous donors.

While Daniella and Gabriel aren’t able to take their teams down to physically build homes during COVID, they continue to raise funds, communicate with BAM and their families, and look forward to being able to get back to building soon.

Anyone interested can watch Daniella’s Marvel’s Hero Project episode highlighting her humanitarian journey now on Disney+.