I am very proud to announce that Kids Are Heroes is expanding its services to provide children with more tools to excel in their causes and in their everyday lives. This begins with our Virtual Educational Series. We will roll out these classes gradually, depending on a number of factors, but are very excited to launch our premiere class.
The first class offered will be Teens in Social Media: Protecting Their Futures. This subject is relatively new but extremely important. Many parents (and teens) don’t even know yet why they should learn about it. Parents may assume that all they have to worry about is Instagram and Facebook, and the teens just think whatever they are broadcasting is only being read or seen by their friends. Both of these concepts couldn’t be further from the truth.
I became interested in this subject when my daughter innocuously shared a Twitter profile of one of her acquaintances because I had asked her for it. MaryMargaret’s friend was a high school senior at the time. I met this girl and was initially very impressed by her. That is, until I read her Twitter profile. It was overflowing with negative, mean, profane, vitriolic comments that made my jaw drop. This inspired me to find out more what kids were doing online, because I was positive the parents of this teenager had no idea what she was writing. Therefore, with the help of my teenage daughter MaryMargaret, we discovered what kids were doing and what social platforms they were using.
During a cursory search for a comprehensive list of social networking platforms, I came across this Wiki that has links to more than 150 sites. It even claims that their list is by no means exhaustive, and they do not include dating sites. Trying to manage everything that your teenagers can get their hands into is a very daunting task.
Why does anyone care about this? The reason why this subject is of paramount importance is that whatever your child does online, no matter what the assumption of privacy is, can be recorded and used against them at a later time. This can affect future employment, acceptance into colleges, acceptance into the military, vocational institutions — the list goes on and on. Even personal relationships can be ruined or undeveloped when one uncovers what the other is posting.
Should My Teenager Be Banned from All Social Media Sites?
So is that the answer? Nip it in the bud? Ban my teenager from all social media sites? Absolutely not, at least not from where I stand. Now I am a parent, but I never tell anyone else how to parent their children. So how you approach this is entirely your business, but let me at least explain why I handle it the way I do.
I think that being able to properly navigate and utilize social media is a sought-after skill that a teenager can build on. Whereas ten years ago computer savvy was critical for job applicants, now they must also have social media skills. So banning them entirely would be doing them a great disservice in my opinion. Teaching them how to be positive, how to engage others and connect with people and avoid situations that may be compromising for themselves is what I strive for. My daughter has more than 500 Facebook friends and she is just 15. Think of what she will have when she is 25. This is her sphere of influence. These are people she can lean on when she needs them for whatever reason she needs them for. And she can also be there for them when they need her.
Teens in Social Media Class
Our first class is about teen reputation management and how teens can use social media for their benefit both now and in the future. Even though it is targeted for teenagers 13 and up, we encourage families to take the virtual class together, so that a dialog can be started. The class will include real-world examples of what kids are posting (no graphic images but some profanity will be shown). We will go over some of the more popular platforms, explore the dangers of location based systems, list disturbing trends and also go over how the teenager can avoid these pratfalls to end up with a positive social media experience. To see when the classes are offered and to register for an upcoming class, please click this link.
Hey guys! So I thought that this interview has perfect timing since Three Dot Dash is in about 2 weeks and I got to interview Alessandro Lauria – a hero on our website and also a Global Teen Leader with me for this year’s Global Peace Summit! I was really excited to interview him so I hope you all enjoy the post!
MaryMargaret: Hi Alessandro! I’m really excited to meet you in about 10 days. Could you tell our readers about yourself?
Alessandro: I’m excited to meet you too! Well, I am 14 years old. I live in Gilpin County, Colorado, that’s in the Rocky Mountains. I very athletic; I like to mountain bike, ski and play basketball. I travel a lot and enjoy that very much. In the summer I like to go to camp.
MaryMargaret: I’m awful at basketball! Haha. So what’s your project about?
Alessandro: The name of my organization is the Malaria Defense Project, and we distribute nets to prevent malaria.
MaryMargaret: That’s fantastic! How did you come up with this idea for your project?
Alessandro: Since we travel a lot, I knew malaria was a big problem in Africa. I knew what it was like to have malaria because I have had it a few times and I wanted to do something to help.
MaryMargaret: That must have been awful! I can see how that got you inspired to do your project. How do you spread the word for the Malaria Defense Project?
Alessandro: Mostly using Facebook, my website, doing presentations at schools and civic groups and being in the local paper.
MaryMargaret: Those are some great ways! How has the work you’ve done with the nets impacted your life?
Alessandro: I’ve gotten lots of recognition. It makes me feel good to help make a difference in peoples lives.
MaryMargaret: It really does! What are you most looking forward to at Three Dot Dash?
Alessandro: Seeing New York City. Meeting the other GTL’s and learning new things and how to expand my project.
MaryMargaret: Agreed! I can’t wait to meet the other GTL’s either. Would you like to attend a future Kids Are Heroes Day?
Alessandro: Yes, I’d really like to!
Make sure to check out Alessandro’s profile on the Kids Are Heroes Site!
Hola everyone! This week I got to interview another youngster, Armani Mcfarland, and her story will sure to warm your heart!
MaryMargaret: Hey Armani! Could you tell everyone a bit about yourself please?
Armani: My name is Armani Mcfarland and I am 10 years old. I have been hosting drives, donating and volunteering for a little over 2 years. I am a 5th grader and I like school most of the time. I love to read! I love to hang out with my friends. I love to go shopping. I really enjoy helping people and love to volunteer especially with my friends. I have an older sister and a younger brother. I have lived in Utah my whole life.
MaryMargaret: We have a lot in common – I love reading and shopping too! So whats your project about?
Armani: I host all kinds of drives. I started 2 years ago with my first food drive and since then I have done two backpack and school supply drives that brought in over 800 backpacks filled with school supplies. A coat drive and I collect or bought 480 coats that were both new and used and both for kids and adults. A book drive. I did a stuffed animal drive with my class and we donated over 1000 stuffed animals to local police and fire stations for kids who are injured or scared. A toothbrush and toothpaste drive and I get to give out the toothbrushes at the Alpine Outreach Center when I volunteer there every Thursday. A toy drive this last Christmas and were able to give 100′s of kids Christmas gifts that wouldn’t have any otherwise. I am also going to be hosting another food drive in couple weeks for global youth service day.
MaryMargaret: That’s really cool how you’ve done so much and you’re so young! You’ve definitely made a difference in the world. So how did you get your project started?
Armani: When I was in the third grade my teacher taught us about hunger and about how there are children all over the world who don’t have enough food to eat. I thought about it a lot over the next couple days because she told us that 1 in 5 kids right here in the United States don’t have enough food and are hungry. I really wanted to help so I talked to my mom about hosting a food drive. I collected food for about 3 weeks. I set up a collection bin at my school and I stood outside a local grocery store and handed out flyers asking for donations. By the end of my food drive I collected nearly 1000 pounds of food.
MaryMargaret: W0w, that’s a lot of food in such a short period of time! How do you spread the word about all project?
Armani: I have a website and a Facebook page that I try to keep updated. I also take letters to people and businesses in the community when I start working on a new project.
MaryMargaret: That’s awesome and definitely a great way to spread the word about your charity! How has the work you’ve done impacted your life?
Armani: I have learned so much since I started this adventure! Most importantly I have learned that one person truly can make a difference. I love to see peoples faces when I can help with something that they can’t help themselves with. I have learned to see the big picture more and I watch around me to see what is needed in the community and where I can help.
MaryMargaret: I feel the exact same way! It’s great that you’re always looking how to change other people’s lives. What was it like collecting those 1000 pounds of food and how did it make you feel afterwards?
Armani: It was hard work and it took a lot of time, I spend days outside grocery stores asking for donations. When it was all done and we took the food to the food banks to be weighed it felt so great to know I made such a big difference in the lives of others. I was very proud of what I did and helped me realize I could make a big positive change. That is when I decided to hosts lots of different drives to help people.
MaryMargaret: You definitely have made a big change! I’m glad that it kept you inspired. Do you have any advice for other kids around your age that want to make a difference?
Armani: If you want to make a difference or if you want to do something to help other people, You can. Nobody is too young or to small to help people. If you have an idea share it with an adult that might be able to help you. Sometimes making a difference is hard work and takes time but it feels so good to know you are changing life’s for the better.
MaryMargaret: That’s great advice! And lastly, do you plan to attend a future Kids Are Heroes Day?
Armani: Yes, I really wanted to go last year but we couldn’t make it out because of time and money but I hope to come in the next couple years.
Don’t forget to check out Armani’s profile on the Kids Are Heroes website!
Regan giving a speech at last year’s Kids Are Heroes Day.
Hey guys! Sorry I didn’t post last week, it’s been pretty hectic lately. Thank you to everyone for helping me get through Charlie’s (our dog) passing, it means a lot to me. But I’m back, and this week I got to interview none other than Regan Lutz! What she does is really inspiring and I can’t wait to share it with you.
MaryMargaret: Hey Regan! So could you please tell everyone about yourself?
Regan: My name is Regan Lutz and I am turning 10 years old next week. I am in the 4th grade and I love math! I started Regan’s Rescue before my 7th Birthday and I have been collecting for Little Animal Shelter Rescue and Adoption Center every year since then. http://littleshelter.com/#home.
MaryMargaret: Wow! Happy Birthday then! So what is Regan’s Rescue all about?
Regan: My project is about helping the dogs and cats at the shelter. I want to help provide them with the things that every dog and cat needs and some fun things too. Just because they are in a shelter doesn’t mean that they don’t need the same things your pets at home need. At first I just collected once a year, for my birthday, but now I also collect towels and throw rugs through out the year. I encourage people to clean out their linen closets and give what they don’t need to me, so I can bring them to the shelter.
MaryMargaret: That’s awesome! I collected my birthday gifts for the animal shelter when I was 9 years old. We are both really big animal lovers! So how did you come up with the idea for your project?
Regan: When I was almost 7, I read about a girl who was collecting money to buy bullet proof vests for police dogs. She was asking people to donate to this charity instead of giving her birthday gifts. I thought that was such a great idea. I decided that I wanted to do something like that so I started asking people to donate things to the shelter instead of buying birthday gifts for me.
MaryMargaret: I love how you help animals! So knowing that you are a huge dog lover, how has this work impacted your life?
Regan: It impacted my life a lot because I feel that I can make a difference and what I do matters to the animals at the shelter. I also now have 2 rescue dogs- which I don’t think I ever would have had with out being involved in donating to the shelter.
MaryMargaret: Ahh, I see! Well I’m glad that you rescued them, rescue dogs are the best! After you’ve donated all of the animal goods for the shelter, how do you feel afterwards?
Regan: I feel very happy and proud of myself to be doing something for others. The day I bring the donations to the shelter is one of my favorite days of the year. I feel so lucky that I get to see what all the donations mean to the shelter. I also realize what great family and friends I have. Everyone is so generous. There are people who send donations every year that I have never even met, but are friends of my family. I am so grateful to all the people that help make each year such a success.
MaryMargaret: I think that’s awesome that you love making other people happy and donating to the shelter. A little goes a long way, especially when it comes to the animal shelter! I remember meeting you last year at Kids Are Heroes Day. Did you enjoy it?
Regan: It was the best day ever! I made a lot of new friends and raised some money for Little Animal Shelter. I learned that even though you might feel like you are the only kid doing this, there are actually lots of kids who do good things for others. I loved visiting each table and talking to all the other kids. My family and I are going to Kids are Heroes Day again this year. I can’t wait to see some of my old friends and meeting more new kids.
MaryMargaret: I’m so glad you had fun! I can’t wait to see you again this year! Thank you so much for the awesome interview!
Make sure to check out Regan’s profile on the Kids Are Heroes website!
Hey everyone! This is MaryMargaret, and this week I had the pleasure of interviewing Guru Mathivanan from India. Wow! He has a really inspiring story that I’m excited to share with you.
MaryMargaret: Hey Guru! Would you please tell our readers a bit about yourself?
Guru: I am Guru Vishnu Mathivanan, 12 years old studying VII Standard in Edison G Agoram Memorial School, Chidambaram, Tamilnadu, India. I have done an awareness program “Global warming awareness motto” from my age of four. I have given awareness speech about reasons and effects of global warming and the simple solutions to reduce the same. Also I have donate and plant saplings during my speech. Till I have covered more than 200,000 students and people and donated more than 50,000 saplings in my community. I have been honored with many rewards and awards for my greening activities and educating others (environmental education). I have attended many international conferences and submit my environmental papers. I went to South Korea on my 10th year (they honored me for environmental activities), and last year I have gone to Malaysia to submit my paper. My project is a life project to me and I wish to do it till our earth change into green, clean and full of peace. Removing the word poverty is my life aim.
MaryMargaret: Wow! For a kid only at the age of 12, you sure have gone to a lot of places around the world and truly are a life-changer! So, how did you get your program “Global Warming Awareness Motto” started?
Guru: On my first day of schooling our school correspondent issued saplings to new siblings and I asked about it to my parents and they told me that plants are the earth’s lungs, they bring us rain. Now they are in danger that is why the correspondent gave the saplings to all. It is everyone’s duty to plant and maintain trees. So I start to plant. Nothing is a success one without proper awareness. So I have decided to give awareness speech along with my plantation work.
MaryMargaret: That’s really neat, I wish I came up with that idea at the age of 12! So could you give a couple more details on your project?
Guru: My project is about explaining global warming and plantation. Moreover I have explained about recycling. I am helping others, how to improve one’s income by planting short term vegetables, trees in one’s own garden etc. I have donated orphanage dress, pens, notebooks, snacks etc. Main project is “Global Warming Awareness Motto” and Tree Plantation and giving Environmental Awareness through Environmental Education.
MaryMargaret: Very inspiring and very different – I love it. How do you spread the word about your project?
Guru: Through my environmental awareness classes, handmade charts, drawings, speech, newspaper cuttings album, ppt. presentation etc. I am not only telling all the facts but also doing in my day today life.
MaryMargaret: Those are some great ways to raise awareness for your program. So how does you work you do impact your life?
Guru: I have got social recognition for my work. The peers of my age group also motivated to do this work. Every small action makes big change one day. In our area many students follow my words and they also did environmental activities in their area.
MaryMargaret: Agreed! A small action REALLY can make a huge difference. On your profile on the Kids Are Heroes Website, it says you’ve given a lot of speeches to inspire people about your project. How many people have you spoken in front of, and was it nerve-racking for you?
Guru: I have covered 200,000 people in total. The total number in one public is maximum 5000. In one school 1500 students. In one polytechnic college 1500 students. I have done my speech from my age of four. At my fourth year I have covered 500 audience. As long as you have a clear idea about you talk, and speak boldly to explain the problems, you will collect points more about you speak. Face audience boldly and confidently. That’s all.
MaryMargaret: Even I haven’t spoken in front of that many people, and you are 3 years younger than me! Haha. Anyways, knowing that you have donated a lot of saplings to all over the world, how does it make you feel?
Guru: I am feeling very happy to plant and donate saplings because I do something for our mother planet earth to change green.
MaryMargaret: I think if everyone did what you do, we would have a much healthier planet. For my final question, would you ever like to attend Kids Are Heroes Day in the near future?
Guru: Definitely I want to attend Kids Are Heroes Day and I also wish to deliver my awareness speech if you wish.
We would love that! Make sure to check out Guru’s Profile on the Kids Are Heroes Site!
Hey guys! MaryMargaret again. This week I’m proud to announce I got the opportunity to interview sisters Linda and Susanna Manziaris. They are both super nice and I hope everyone enjoys the interview!
MaryMargaret: Hey guys! Would you mind telling the readers a little bit about yourself?
Linda: Not at all! My name is Linda Manziaris I’m 14 from Toronto, and I started an online jewelry store, called Body Bijou. Body Bijou donates 50% of net profits to GirlsHelpingGirls to provide deserving girls in the developing world with an education.
Susanna: I’m Susanna Manziaris, I’m 17 years old and I’m also from Toronto. I started a non-profit organization called GirlsHelpingGirls. Girls Helping Girls works to raise the global low status of woman through education.
MaryMargaret: That’s awesome! I love how you guys both collaborate with each other. So can you both please tell me about Body Bijou and GirlsHelpingGirls?
Linda: I first learned how to make jewelry in grade seven, when we had a special art unit at school. I really took to it, and I got my mom to get me some lessons with a jewelry artisan so I could broaden my skills. The skills I learned allowed me to have more design freedom to design unique categories of jewelry such as Body Chains, Ringalets, Shoulderlace, and Leg Bijou.
Susanna: GirlsHelpingGirls was born after a family volunteer trip to Kenya. There I learned how an education can truly someone’s life. Upon returning home from Kenya I did some more work on educating girls and soon realized that the global status of women is very low. So that is when I made it my goal to try and provide as many educational scholarships to girls all around the world.
MaryMargaret: Wow, both are really cool and different stories! Could you give our readers a few more details?
Linda: Body Bijou is a brand for the socially conscious shopper. Woman not only look good wearing the jewelry, but they also can feel good about their purchase, because they are also helping to provide a girl in the developing world with an education. Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good!
Susanna: It is about educating girls in order to raise the global status of women and help break the cycle of poverty.
MaryMargaret: I love how you both do totally different stuff but still collaborate with each other. Super cool! So what do you do you tell others about your project?
Linda: I spread the word about Body Bijou by attending many trade shows, selling my jewelry in some retail stores, through word of mouth and through TV and print media interviews.
Susanna: I spread the word about Girls Helping Girls through awareness campaigns, clubs, and tv and print media interviews.
MaryMargaret: Awesome! I can tell you’re both really passionate about your projects. So how have these projects changed your life?
Linda: Starting Body Bijou has taught me a lot. I have learned so many ways of solving problems that seem impossible. I’ve learned how to speak well in public, and I’ve learned how to take my interest, and turn it into a passion.
Susanna: Girls Helping Girls has impacted my life in a very positive way. I have become more knowledgeable about the issues women face all around the world, as well as how to implement strategies to help eliminate problems faced globally, such as the low status of women and the ever present cycle of poverty.
MaryMargaret: Well said! So knowing that you both spend a lot of time together since you collaborate, how has this project brought you closer together?
Linda & Susanna:
These combined projects have helped bring us closer because we are constantly working alongside. We spend a lot more time with each other than we used to, and although there are arguments, we are definitely closer!
MaryMargaret: In my opinion, I think working on a project with a friend is 10 times more fun than working on one alone. I’m glad you both have each other for each of your organizations. So, after looking at your website(s) I saw that you both have met tons of people from all over the world. What was is it like to meet all those different people each day?
Linda: Its really cool to meet other kids my age who are living a separate life across the world. When we talk to the girls we are sponsoring, although we are on other sides of the world, we have the same interests and it is amazing!
Susanna: It is a truly amazing to listen to the stories and experiences from people who live in all different countries all around the world. This has given me the chance to learn so much about the struggles as well as triumphs people have everyday. This has given me a greater outlook on the world, and made me realize that we have to take a responsibility to help the less fortunate, and that is what Girls Helping Girls is doing.
MaryMargaret: That’s fantastic! I love what you both are doing, keep up the good work!
Make sure to check out both Linda and Susanna’s profile on the Kids Are Heroes website!
Hey everyone! MaryMargaret here. This week I got the pleasure to interview none other than Ms. Jessica Carsadden, and she told me all about her project, We Care Bears!
MaryMargaret: Hi Jessica! Would you mind telling our readers about yourself??
Jessica: My name is Jessica Carsadden and I was adopted when I was 5 years old. I’ve lived in Virginia and Montana. Now I’m a 5th grader in San Diego, CA and I’m 11 years old!
MaryMargaret: Cool! So what’s your project, We Care Bears, all about?
Jessica: Giving stuffed animals to first responders to give to kids who are scared or injured. So really my project is kids helping kids.
MaryMargaret: That’s really neat! And very creative. So how did you think of the idea for your project?
Jessica: I was cleaning my room when I saw a lot of stuffed animals that I no longer needed were practically new. So I thought it would be nice to take them to the Fire Department across the street so they had them for kids who are scared or injured. I took them over and the fire fighters thought it was
such a great idea it all started from there.
MaryMargaret: Wow, that’s such a cool project you’re doing! Especially since you’re so young, it shows that other kids your age can do something inspiring too. So how do you spread the word about your project?
Jessica: I started with just my school and then other people heard about it and I went to speak at other schools and businesses and then I just become the “bear girl”.
MaryMargaret: Aw, that’s so cute! How has the work you’ve done impacted your life?
Jessica: Well I’ve won lots of awards and that’s nice but it’s not about that really. It’s about helping other kids and helping first responders.
MaryMargaret: I totally agree! Do you have any advice for other kids that are really young and want to change the world, just like you?
Jessica: You don’t have to start a big project like mine to change the world. All you need to do is just smile to stranger, or give a compliment to someone and you never know what kind of change that will make. You can also find a kid friendly project like mine to donate to or help with. You can even
start a We Care Bear chapter in your town. If you send me an e-mail to my website at www.wecarebears.webs.com I can send you information.
MaryMargaret: I think that’s great advice! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions – I have a feeling a lot of people will really enjoy this interview!!
Don’t forget to check out Jessica’s profile on the Kids Are Heroes website!
Hey everyone, MaryMargaret here! First, I’d like to start off by saying that I’m glad everyone really enjoys this new segment of the blog! I’m having a lot of fun meeting the heroes and getting to know them a little bit better. This week, I got to talk to Nick Lowinger over FaceTime, and it was a really neat experience!
MaryMargaret: Hi Nick! It’s really nice to meet you..over the internet!
Nick: Thanks! You too!
MaryMargaret: Thank you! So could you please tell our readers about yourself?
Nick: Sure! My name is Nick Lowinger, I’m 16 from Rhode Island. I’m a sophomore in high school, and 4 years ago I founded the Gotta Have Sole Foundation.
MaryMargaret: Awesome! So what’s your project about?
Nick: Gotta Have Sole Foundation is an organization I founded 4 years ago, where we collect all types of shoes and donate them to homeless children. I feel like this will give the kids more self-confidence when they have good shoes to wear.
MaryMargaret: That’s so cool! Wow, how did you come up with that idea?
Nick: Well, I came up with the idea when I was younger and visited the homeless shelter. I saw all these kids with these terrible, unfitting, poor footwear. Boys were wearing girl’s shoes. It really upset me, and when I was old enough I realized I could do something to help these kids. So I waited until I became old enough so I could help!
MaryMargaret: I’m glad you did, you seem to be making such of an impact! How do you get the word out about your project?
Nick: I use Facebook, Twitter, and I have my own website, www.gottahavesole.org . I also promote GHS through events, and we even have our own club in schools! We also do shoe drives, which is really cool. We are currently in 32 states across the US and have helped over 25,000 kids with new footwear!
MaryMargaret: Wow, you’re definitely getting the word out for your project! How has the work you’ve done impacted your life?
Nick: It’s made a HUGE impact! I have made an impact on others, and that feels amazing. I have become so much more appreciative and grateful on how much of an impact on others can make. Being a kid helps! Other kids look at what you’re doing, and that puts more of an effect on them than a adult would, I think. It makes them think that even if they are young, they can really help.
MaryMargaret: That’s so true! I totally agree. So, I know that you were a Global Teen Leader for Three Dot Dash. What was that like?
Nick: It was amazing! I got to learn so much from everyone. I have improved very much from going to the summit, and became very motivated after realizing I’m truly a peacemaker! It was an amazing experience and you’ll really like it.
MaryMargaret: Thank you, I’m really excited! You should come out and visit me when I go! Haha.
Nick: Yeah, I’ll try! That would be fun.
MaryMargaret: Totally! So what are your goals with your project?
Nick: My goal is for the Gotta Have Sole Foundation to be in all 50 states across the United States, and to consistently be donating new footwear to kids.
MaryMargaret: Wow, that’s great! I wish the best of luck for you and your project! Thanks so much for talking!
Nick: Thank you for featuring me on your blog!
See Nicholas’ profile on the Kids Are Heroes website.
Hi Everyone! This is MaryMargaret, and as you may or may not know, I will be sharing this blog with my dad. I will do a segment, each Friday, about a hero on our website. I will be interviewing them and getting to know a little bit about them. Our first hero of the week is Jessica Waters! Jessica is going to tell you a little bit about herself and her project. I hope you enjoy!
MaryMargaret: Hi Jessica! Could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Jessica: Of course! My name is Jessica Waters, I am 16 and a junior at Beavercreek High School. In was diagnosed with epilepsy 5yrs ago this May. I am active in my school, community,state and country. I am a cheerleader, hockey team manager, I play lacrosse, work 2 jobs (both seasonal) and have volunteered over 982 hours to date. I enjoy traveling, swimming, dancing and spending time with family and friends.
MaryMargaret: That’s awesome! So, What is Cupcakes for Camp about?
Jessica: My project, Cupcakes for Camp, helps kids 7-21 attend a week long summer camp where they CAN do the things that may be hard at home. We ride horses, swim, go rafting and more. It’s a positive program that helps kids see they are more than a diagnosis. To date I have helped raise enough money to help send over 20 children! I have met some of them first hand and love how happy they are to go! I also volunteer at the camp as a counselor each summer.
MaryMargaret: Wow, that’s so cool! And very creative. How did you get your project started, and how did you think of it?
Jessica: I was diagnosed with epilepsy a week before I turned 12. I became withdrawn, scared and most of all embarrassed. I was bullied by kids and adults. I felt so sad all of the time. My parents hated how I felt and reached out to the Epilepsy Foundation for support. I attended a summer camp for children who have epilepsy a few months after being diagnosed and it changed how I saw myself. I didn’t want any children to ever feel isolated or embarrassed about epilepsy or any disability! On the ride home the process began and I started Cupcakes for Camp!
MaryMargaret: What made you think of cupcakes for your project?
Jessica: I used to want to own a bakery! I have always loved cupcakes and when I met up with the owner if GiGi’s Cupcakes that was a pivoting point. They brought me in and taught me everything they know and have been a huge supporter. Cupcakes are fun and they brighten your day.
MaryMargaret: Agreed, everyone loves cupcakes! What is it like dealing with epilepsy?
Jessica: Well, dealing with epilepsy is like dealing with anything I imagine. I will never forget the day I was told. I just knew he was wrong, I didn’t want to have anything wrong with me! I was in middle school and was trying to fit in like everyone else. It got harder, I missed school and kids talk and ask why, teachers say things in class and make you feel like its your fault you have epilepsy, it’s easy to get sad and feel alone. I am blessed with a strong family and although I have lost friendships but I have learned the value of true friends! I have had some that were there since the beginning and one that no matter what she and her family attend almost every function I organize. You learn quick to see past ignorance and to forgive. After all 1 in 10 people will have a seizure in their lifetime. It’s really scary when you think about it. Seizures take lives everyday and we still don’t know why! I hope for understanding, education and a cure.
MaryMargaret: Wow, that’s very inspiring. Knowing that you have over 4,000 supporters and tons of sponsors, how do you get the word out about your project?
Jessica: I communicate with the foundation, my local papers, television stations, community and local businesses. I hold events like Purple Out 2013, cupcake sales through local bakeries, I attend health fairs, leadership groups and more. I am proud to even have the support of former President Bush!
MaryMargaret: That’s incredible, I wish I could meet Mr.Bush! Haha. So, how has the work you’ve done impacted your life?
Jessica: The impact it has made on me is monumental! I have learned so much about myself, epilepsy and most of all other people. It has changed me, made me want to be a better person and it continues to mold my future by learning about empathy, and determination.
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See Jessica’s profile on the Kids Are Heroes website.
I received an email this morning from a mother of one of our heroes. I was saddened by the news yet incredibly inspired by the actions this young girl has taken despite all she has endured. I thought I would share the email in its entirety:
I wanted to take just a brief moment of your time to update you on 10 year old Matti Maretoli and her Walk4Water. You and many other area community members extended your support to Matti last summer as she felt inspired to raise funds for a well in Africa. Together, with her friends, family, and church the walk took shape and hosted over 100 walkers this past July. Matti had set a goal for $5,000 and the team exceeded that goal by $495.
Since last summer, Matti has been faced with difficulties that no 10 year old should face. Matti is bravely walking through the grieving process following the sudden death of her father. Her father was an avid supporter of her’s and we even recently found a comment written on a blog post from the site Kids Are Heroes that demonstrates such. Matti’s dad says…
“Shout-out to: Matti Maretoli: To one of the most inspiring gifts that God has given me, my oldest child. You will make impacts in this world that some can only dream of. You are one of the best things that has happened to me in my life and the world is very lucky to have you in it. Love you more than anything in the whole world you are my ‘favoritis’ thing, Daddy”
Her daddy’s encouragement and her passion for others has driven her to continue her Walk4Water campaign and she has even extended her goal to $10,000. So look for Matti and her friends in the Spring as she begins to rally support for Walk4Water 2014.
In the meantime, we wanted you to have an update on the funds that you contributed for 2013. The funds raised from the 2013 Walk4Water paid for a well that has now been completed and is serving a community of 56 families and a school of 160 children in Rukoni, Uganda.
Matti’s Water Well
Following the completion of the well, a community member shared…
“In this community, water has been the most problem because our pond is not protected and so we share the water with cows. We would even step in the water when it rains because of flooding. We are so happy for the borehole you have given us because it is protected and safe, and nearer to us. You have reduced us from walking a distance of 3 kilometers looking for drinking water. I thank God for this miracle to our community.”
Matti dedicated this well, In loving memory of her father, Matt Maretoli. It is her ultimate dream to go visit the site and meet the families whose lives were changed by it. God willing, she will one day!
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I encourage you to visit Matti’s profile on the Kids Are Heroes website and give her a shout-out of encouragement. If you’d like to help her reach her goal for 2014, you may do so here.