Windermere Prep student earns Disney Dreamer and Doer, Shining Star awards

Windermere Prep student Maya Tharoo, 13, has been named both a Disney Dreamer and Doer and a Shining Star for her work with Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.

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  • | 1:37 p.m. June 1, 2018
  • Southwest Orange
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Windermere Preparatory School student Maya Tharoo has always taken a head-start approach to life.

At birth, she weighed just 1 pound, 14 ounces. At age 5, she began volunteering at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. And at age 9, she founded a nonprofit and also became the youngest recipient of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s Community Builder Rising Star Award.

Now 13, Maya Tharoo not only has been named a Disney Dreamer and Doer — she also earned the honor of becoming a Disney Shining Star.

Each spring, Disney asks elementary-, middle- and high-school principals to select one student who dreams of a better home, school and community — and who works hard to make it a reality. These students are recognized as Disney Dreamers and Doers. 

Annually, there are about 375 students from across Central Florida who are honored as Dreamers and Doers, but the larger competition is the Shining Star awards. These are given to 15 students — one elementary-, middle- and high-school student from each Central Florida county.

Shining Stars receive Disney World annual passes for their families for one year, “Mousecar” statues — based on Oscar statues — and commemorative certificates. They also are invited to a special event at Walt Disney World.

“I thought that while I had a good chance at getting it; I also thought that my story was something that should be heard, and it would be good to get it out in the world,” the rising freshman said of being a Shining Star. “I was so extremely happy and grateful. I was proud that I could represent my school in that way and that they trusted me and thought I could go on to the next level and receive the Shining Star award.”

Maya was born prematurely and spent 110 days in the NICU at Winnie Palmer. She and her family were so grateful to the hospital for their care that she decided to give back. Once a month, or by parents’ requests, Maya visits NICU families at Winnie Palmer and shares her story and inspiration.

“It’s made me rally happy, because as I’ve gotten older, I understand the impact I’m leaving,” she said. “I realize that it gives them hope, and honestly for me hope is the best feeling in the world to have. I’m so thankful for every day I’m able to provide that feeling to them.”

But Maya also is the founder of her own nonprofit, the Miracle Makers Foundation. The purpose is to support premature babies and their families. One of her goals is to help provide NICU centers in countries that don’t have them, and also to provide scholarships to doctors intending to pursue careers in neonatology. 

Her parents, Abdullah and Mumtaz, said it is humbling and they are blessed to be able to watch Maya’s passion for giving back grow — and that they get to be a part of it.

“The only word I can think of is blessed,” Abdullah said. “We’re blessed we’re able to make so much difference, and for me it’s a way of paying back. You have to pass it forward. We were in the hospital for 110 days. She went through a very long, extensive, complicated surgery when she was 2 weeks old. …We’ve been taking her to Winnie Palmer for every birthday since she was born for the nurses to see her and what they have done. We were very blessed that she feels at home there.”


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