Here is a post from one of my Facebook friends about one of the heroes who is coming from Canada to attend Kids Are Heroes Day in October: Jaevin Spero.
Jaevin is one of the 30+ kids who are coming from 3 countries, and this serves as an example of how special they all are.
“Yesterday we were driving to st.catharines and there was a man on the side of the road with a sign “broke & starving”…and you know who was in the car, right? Jaevin. He insists on getting the man something. I say, do you want to get him a coffee or something? And he says no..groceries. So Zehrs is there and he has $10 and goes up and down the aisle with Summer picking things…crackers and peanut butter (a healthy snack that will last a long time) a big thing of water (cuz it’s so hot out) and even a precooked meal of ribs and taters (cuz it was supper time). He goes to pay and of course he’s short and has to put back the crackers. (I had NO money with me to help). He explains what the items are for to the cashier and guess what she does? She pulls out her own debit card and pays for the crackers! Amazing! Take him over to the gentleman and he brings the food and says “i just wanted to get this for you” and the man shakes his hand, very grateful. Then Jaevin says “It looked like you thought no one saw you, but i did.”….okay…now isn’t that perceptive??????”
To date we have featured 279 heroes from 9 countries on the Kids Are Heroes® website. We are all so proud and amazed by all of them. But a picture sent by our newest hero’s mom really got to me.
Raegan Junge, (pictured below) is a 7-year-old girl with a huge heart. Seeing the devastation suffered by the tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri and other places, Raegan had to do something. She made bracelets to sell and donated $450 for victims in Alabama. She learned of an elderly couple who had lost their home due to the destructive storm in Joplin which left them living in a shelter. The husband is a veteran. Raegan decided that she wanted to sponsor them. Her mom drove her 8 hours from Iowa to meet them personally and hand deliver the check for $1600.00 that Raegan had personally raised. (To see all of what Raegan accomplished, visit her feature on the Kids Are Heroes website here.)
So why did this picture affect me so much? Seeing the sheer devastation in the background representing lives being torn apart balanced by a little angel who had taken it upon herself to help out and do something really moved me. If the legacy of our generation is represented by shocking, tasteless and sensational reality TV that we so care about then at least there does seem to be hope for the future if Raegan and our other heroes have anything to do with it. Keep it up, young lady we are so proud of you.
Sometimes I do get frustrated when it comes to what I do. The reason is simply because I cannot share what I learn with everyone. Everyone should indeed know about what Neha Gupta is doing. She is our newest featured hero. And although I cannot reach everyone, the ones who read this blog post will know what I mean. It is truly amazing what our younger generation is capable of accomplishing. Neha is a young teenager who has created a non-profit called “Empower Orphans” which aims to better the lives of orphans in India.
At what age would you say you started getting involved in philanthropy and what started you down this road?
As my grandparents live in India, I often visit the country. In keeping with family tradition, we volunteer at an orphanage each time we visit my grandparent’s hometown, located in northern India. When I was nine years old, I realized that the 200 children who live at the orphanage did not have adequate money to gain a proper education; I felt very sad when I heard this because I know the importance of education. Moreover, it was heartbreaking for me to think that these children had no mother or father to guide them, protect them, or love them.
Instead of internalizing these feelings and merely showing empathy for the orphans and underprivileged children, I decided to take action by raising money. The money would help the children gain a better education, be able to stand on their own feet and ultimately become positive contributors to society.
How did you initially discover the orphanage you are helping?
My grandparents have a tradition to volunteer at the orphanage, Bal Kunj, in their hometown in India every year, so I have been going there since I was very little.
How did your non-profit, “Empower Orphans” get started?
To formalize my fundraising efforts, I created and registered a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (Empower Orphans; www.empowerorphans.org). The mission of Empower Orphans is to address the problems associated with orphans/abandoned children and children born into homes living in poverty by motivating individuals to translate empathy into action.
The organization’s goal is to help create self sufficiency by supplying the children with the tools to gain a basic education and technical skills to enable a sustainable livelihood; helping them to become productive and positive contributors to society. In addition to education, Empower Orphans provides food, clothing, healthcare, and medical supplies to establish an effective learning environment.
What does the organization mean to you? Why is it so important to you that you help the orphans? What has been achieved so far?
I believe that every child should have the opportunity to gain a proper education, and since these orphans do not have the means to, I feel that it is extremely important for me to help them, and that is what Empower Orphans stands for- bettering the education of the children.
Significant strides have already been made to make a difference in the lives of more than a thousand orphaned, underprivileged and abused children.
Bal Kunj Orphanage – India
In 2006, a library was started at the Bal Kunj orphanage. Over the years, I expanded upon the library and have continued to provide stationery to each of the 200 children who live there.
Each child is provided with nutritious food, school bags, shoes warm clothes and blankets (to combat the severe winters experienced by northern India).
In addition, I have provided technical books to 20 children aged between 14-16 years, enabling them to enter a trade and earn a living.
Shree Geeta Public School (for underprivileged children) – India
During the summer of 2009, I expanded my efforts to provide education and improve wellness among 360 underprivileged children who attend the Shree Geeta Public School.
A four day eye and dental clinic was held at the school, during which medical doctors evaluated the vision and oral care needs of the 360 children.
56 children received more advanced eye care, while 103 children received further dental treatment.
The annual education of 10 underprivileged children was sponsored by Empower Orphans.
Sewing machines were given to 10 older girls, who can now take on seamstress jobs and stand on their own feet.
During 2010, the number of projects conducted increased substantially.
A computer center with 4 computers and printers was established. Children in grades 3 to 7 can now start to gain an understanding of computer technology.
Another library was opened for 360 children. Books represented 40% of the school fees and this directly reduced the burden on the parents.
The education of 40 children sponsored.
20 more girls were provided with sewing machines.
Christ’s Home for Children – Warminster, PA
Provided 175 CFL bulbs so that the orphanage can start reducing their electricity bills and utilize the money towards improved care for the children.
In 2010, I plan to provide bicycles to children at the orphanage.
Mission Kids (for abused children) – Norristown, PA
Distributed stuffed animals to children that visit the Mission Kids center in Norristown, PA
Street Children – India
Provided 220 children with shoes.
I see you have a web store where people can help with needs for the orphans. What would you say would be their greatest need?
As I have mentioned, these orphans do not have the means to gain a proper education so the greatest need of the children would be school fees, uniforms and books.
I understand you are doing things in the US to help people too. Can you elaborate on that?
This year, I expanded my organization to include children in the US. I have already given 50 stuffed animals (given by Build-a-Bear and Kohls) to the children at Mission Kids in Philadelphia and 175 CFL light bulbs to Christ’s Home for Children in Warminster, PA. I am now working towards supplying the orphanage in Warminster with bicycles, food and books to Mission Kids, and am going to start helping the extremely under-privileged schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
How can other kids help out if they want to get involved in what you are doing?
Other kids can help out by going to www.EmpowerOrphans.org, to start their own fundraising teams/ branch in their area. Through that, they can raise funds in whichever way they feel comfortable. The funds can then be used for projects in US or India or other places globally.
How would you say this activity has affected your life?
Empower Orphans has affected my life considerably, as I have learned how important it is to give to others and also how just one person can truly make a difference in society.
What would you say to a child who really wants to do something great for other people but doesn’t know where to start?
At first, I did not know where to start either. But, I set goals, and started with small ideas which slowly led to bigger and better ideas. After five years, I raised $50,000! Therefore, what I would tell a child who wants to get involved in philanthropy, is to just stay determined and remember that you may not think that your impact will be vast at first but it actually will be.
How do you envision yourself once you reach adulthood?
When I reach adulthood, I envision expanding Empower Orphans into a truly global organization. In the future, I want to open a Technical School for the orphaned and underprivileged children. Once children living at the Bal Kunj orphanage turn 16, they have to leave the orphanage and fend for themselves. They are not trained for any vocation and find it difficult to make a living. Subsequently, the potential of their slipping into a life of crime or prostitution is high. This sequence results in more orphans. To break this cycle, the Technical School will focus on teaching technical skills (electrician, mechanic, lathe operators, tailors and seamstresses) to both the orphans as well as other underprivileged children (approx. 500 children a year).
On a personal level, I want to become a pediatrician (so that I can continue helping children).
Why not give Neha a shout-out on the Kids Are Heroes web site? To do so click here.
We recently met Alannah Raven through her dad Eddy who tours the country speaking about disaster preparedness. As a matter of fact, Alannah often goes with him and speaks about the same subject. But it was her passion for the protection of horses that sparked this interview. A word of caution here: If you are at all squeamish when it comes to animals being harmed or tortured, you may want to skip this post. We try not to go into too much detail but I feel it is important to raise awareness about what is going on in this country. I personally had no idea. And kudos to Alannah for having the courage at such a young age to confront these horrors.
I am very interested in your work for the salvation of horses. How did you discover the atrocities that are being leveled against them?
I knew about soring from my work with horses in the area. I have also seen horses being sold for slaughter at auctions. One of our family rules is that as we kids tour more we have to choose a cause so I looked for an organization that needed help raising awareness and the International Fund for Horses seemed like the best fit for me.
Without being too graphic, can you describe what is going on?
It’s hard not to describe it so it is not gross. Wild horses are being rounded up and slaughtered for meat. Pregnant mares are tortured for years to collect their urine in a certain way to make medicine. Show horses are sometimes tortured to make better shows. Every day we read news stories of people that put horses out to pasture to watch them starve rather then finding them a good home.
How many wild horses are in the US?
There are less then 25,000.
Why are horses so important to you?
Horses are important to me because, out of all the animals I have, they are the most sensitive to people. I have always liked horses since I was a little girl. Through history horses are the one animal that helped up build our country but now are to often neglected and abused. They are amazing animals. They are strong and so beautiful and if you care for them they can be so much fun.
Besides donating to the International Fund for Horses, how can people help?
Awareness is the biggest thing. It is expensive to try to do what the folks at the International Fund for Horses are doing, but money is not always most important. I have links on my website people can use on their websites to help create awareness, they can assist in horse rescues, and horse owners could even help themselves just by considering how important it is to have disaster plans for there own horses!
What do you want to accomplish with the horses and what do you think you can accomplish?
I tour a lot around the country and I get to speak to thousands of people every year. As a member of Chasing4Life, I am building a good following and I hope I can motivate all of my friends to help me keep the International Fund for Horses going. Of course, I intend to keep rescuing horses personally as long as I have room to keep them.
I know you tour the country speaking about disaster preparedness. Do you speak about the horses too? What kind of feedback do you get from kids? From adults?
This spring will be my first horse-focused tour in the last two years as I have toured with Chasing4Life. I have been well received by grade school kids and older adults. I expect (and hope) that it will be the same.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I would hope to still be involved with the International Fund for Horses perhaps as a board member. I am looking into school for Pre-Veterinary Medicine at the Nebraska College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
Do you have anything you would like to add?
The International Fund for Horses has accomplished so much already and thankfully there are no slaughter houses left in the United States but there is so much to do. I have raised a little money so far and I think that my efforts have raised quite a bit more awareness too. Just today while doing a photo shoot for IFH ads, I came across a neglected horse with no one to care for it and am bringing it to our farm. Making a difference can be done one horse at a time.
We are so lucky to have kids like Alannah. She truly gives us hope. I must say that before I met her I had absolutely no idea this was going on. My personal feeling is to live and let live and to each his own, but transgressions against animals are always sickening to me. I just cannot understand how people can lose their heart for the sake of their personal monetary gain.
So please visit the International Fund for Horses and check out their web site. (Twitter: @Fund4Horses) In their “Issues” section you will see exactly what we are dealing with. Be forewarned though, some of their images are very graphic and indeed disturbing. In the “Horse on the Hill” section you can see how they are attempting to affect change. There are lots of ways you can help. I just spoke with Vivian Grant, the president and founder of this organization. She is a very learned and determined woman who is working tirelessly for these horses. She loves the fact that Alannah is in her camp. Her biggest need are volunteers. The good news is that most of her volunteers (currently 80+) work out of their homes and set their own hours. She has volunteers all over the globe helping her. If this is something you think you might want to be involved with, you can really make a difference. Contact Vivian directly by email, or go right to the volunteer section of her web site and sign up. The phone numbers for the Int’l Fund for Horses are 917.675.3453 (NY) and 713.893.7813 (Houston). If this is not your cup of tea but you still want to help neglected horses, she can even help you find a local horse rescue in your area, no matter where you live.
Please take it upon yourself to spread the word as much as you possibly can for them and for the horses.
Today I had the privilege of interviewing Jasper Lee, a high school student from Manhattan, NY who is an avid fly fisherman. He loves it so much that he shares it with people he thinks would benefit most from its therapeutic value. Jasper teaches this skill to soldiers in hopes that it can help rehabilitate them as they try to reacclimate themselves back into society. This is a great example of turning one of your own passions into something that can really help others.
How did you get started in fly-fishing and at what age?
I started fishing when I was 3 but I didn’t learn to fly-fish until I was 12. Now that I fly-fish I don’t even like spin fishing. Its just one big plop in the water but for me fly-fishing is about being outdoors, its about slowing myself down and just focusing on one thing. When I’m casting, I’m not thinking about the next paper I have to write, its all about the line, the fish, and me. I used to go on fishing trips with my mom and dad. They would fly-fish for most of it and when I could I’d spin fish. Of course I did what any 6 year-old would do on a boat but I also sat and watched. I watched my mom and dad fly-fish and I think because I watched for so long, it helped me to pick up the nuance of fly-fishing faster.
Do you supply the “waders” and boots or can this be done from a boat?
Veteran Anglers of New York, in affiliation with Project Healing Waters does have many waders and boots. On an outing to the Delaware River Club, the owner actually supplied the waders and boots for all of the veterans who went. There are two types of fly-fishing. Salt water and fresh water. If you ask a freshwater guy he’ll tell you that freshwater fishing is harder. If you ask a saltwater guy he’ll tell you that saltwater is harder. I’m a saltwater guy. In freshwater more often than not you’re in waders and boots. Sometimes you can do what’s called a “float trip” where you kind of just float down the river. In saltwater, most of the time you’re on a boat. Sometimes we get out which is what’s known as “wading” (hence waders). But in saltwater, you don’t need waders. You are walking through the ocean, not some cold stream. Since VANY is located in New York, and because logistically wading is easier with a big group, we do a lot of wading with the veterans. However, not all wading has to be done from the actual water. You can stand on the shore and cast. That’s what we did on the last outing with the veterans.
Where are your favorite spots to fly-fish?
Personally, I love the Bahamas. I love to catch bonefish and the Bahamas is one of the greatest places to do it. The scenery is just spectacular and there are some of the biggest bonefish I’ve ever seen. I’ve been to Belize as well and I liked it except for the fact that the bonefish there are considerably smaller.
What does this activity mean to you?
To me, fly-fishing is a way to get in touch with myself. In New York City, everything is fast-paced and hectic but pick up a fly-rod and it all goes away. The stress just melts away with every false-cast. Fly-fishing lets me, be me. Of course there is always the occasional interruption when my dad corrects my form, but other than that, its all about catching fish. I don’t have to think of anything else when I’m fishing. I get to just relax and have fun.
Can you tell us about VANY? How did it get started? How many members does it have?
VANY (Veteran Anglers of NY) is just a group of people who wanted to do more for veterans. That group of people also happens to love fly-fishing. We wanted to help those who have served, those who were disabled because of that. We all saw the effect fly-fishing had on us and we all thought that veterans could greatly benefit from the relaxation and stress-relief that comes with fly-fishing. I really do think that its one of the best ways to get in touch with yourself, and that veterans are greatly helped by it. They have experienced the most stressful environments and conditions on earth, so its our job to give them one of the best ways to relieve stress and anxiety. VANY has 7 board members but our meetings usually have anywhere from 10-15 people at them. We were just at the Somerset fly-fishing show last weekend at the Project Healing Waters booth. A man walked up and said “I really want to give back the veterans, what do I do? And where do I sign up?” it’s people like that who really help VANY and Project Healing Waters. Of course there is a core group but that’s just the beginning, the number of people who come to teach the veterans how to cast, and that come to our meetings fluctuates. For more information you could always check out the website, http://www.veterananglersny.org/
Why did you choose soldiers to help as opposed to other individuals who this might benefit?
Soldiers experienced the most grueling conditions. They went to sleep and woke up everyday fearing for their lives, I can’t imagine something more stressful. We owe it to them to help relieve their stress. My dad is also a veteran, both of my grandfathers were too. The VA hospitals do great things for the veterans but they really can’t make sure everyone gets everything they need. The system is just flawed. So, its our job, the people who they fought for, to give back in anyway we can. I’m only in high school, but I was given the chance to fly-fish, so now its my turn to give someone else the chance, someone who became disabled because what my country asked them to do.
What kind of results have you personally witnessed? How has this changed the lives of some of the people you have been working with?
At the casting sessions, I see veterans walk in very seriously. Those whom I work with, are tense at first. Shoulders tight, knees locked, standing erect. I have to tell them to relax, I try to get them to let the line take the stress away. And with every cast, I see it more and more, they relax, they smile, they loosen up. I see the stress beginning to fall away. Fly-fishing is an art, and like with every other art, it takes practice. With that practice they can take this new skill and apply it wherever they want. This is a way to relieve stress and I see the veterans leave some of their stress behind after they cast for just an hour or two.
Where will you go from here? Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
I think VANY is something that will always stay with me. As I continue on in life, I will certainly continue to fly-fish and I will continue to help Veterans get the same pleasure from it that I do. 10 years from now I’ll be 27, wow that’s a scary thought. And at that time I think I’ll be in residency at medical school. I have wanted to be a doctor for a long time. I want to help people feel better, I want to help people get back to the way they were before they came to see me. VANY allows me to do that and fly-fish its really a win-win situation for me. I can’t think of another way to give back and have fun at the same time.
And Jasper closed the interview by saying: “Thanks again for the honor of this interview. I hope this will entice more people to help veterans. Jasper Lee” It’s so great that so many of the kids on the web site are only looking for more awareness and help with what they are doing.
See Jasper’s profile on the Kids Are Heroes web site. Give him a shout-out – he certainly deserves it.
We have had several “featured hero” segments, but this is the first time we have conducted an interview. Many of the children on the Kids Are Heroes web site are younger, but Riley is a bit older and what she has accomplished is no less than amazing. She has a movement called “Breaking the Chain” that has the “goal of breaking the bonds of illiteracy and poverty for children around the world.” She is also a young writer of children’s books donating some of the proceeds to her literacy programs. Here is her profile on the Kids Are Heroes web site.
What does Breaking the Chain represent to you and how did it get started?
I am passionate about promoting global literacy because I believe that the way to help people, especially children, break the cycle of poverty and exploitation is through literacy.
I created my nonprofit for literacy, Breaking the Chain, when I was fourteen, after learning that there are 120 million children around the world don’t have the opportunity get an education and that there are 800 million adults that cannot read or write, two-thirds of whom are women. These women and children are very vulnerable to exploitation. They are unable to get jobs and they cannot feed or clothe themselves. Only through education do they have the opportunity to make their lives better.
The mission of Breaking the Chain try to eliminate the bonds of poverty and illiteracy for children and their communities through education and sustainable development, both domestically and internationally. Building schools in places where the government cannot or will not build schools for their citizens seemed like a good place to begin. I adopted two villages in Africa, one in Kenya and one in Sierra Leone; I was able to raise enough money to build a school for each village, and to provide both villages with a water purification system. I’ve also created a children’s literacy center at a women’s shelter in Colorado, and bought over 1000 new children’s books for Reach Out and Read and The Heart of America Foundation.
This year, Breaking the Chain achieved tax-exempt status and my older brother, Nick, who is twenty, joined me (I wasn’t old enough to sit on the Board of Directors or to file the paperwork with the IRS).
How do you decide which new projects to take on?
The two most important factors in the decision-making process about what projects to take on are: first, how many kids will be impacted by what we do, and second, how significant the impact is.
I think that each of the projects that I have undertaken for my program Breaking the Chain will have a significant impact on illiteracy, and therefore, on poverty and the exploitation of children.
I believe that the two schools that I built in Africa will change the lives of the children in those villages for many generations. I was incredibly excited when I received pictures of the school and the children of my adopted village in Kenya. The children’s faces were so full of joy and hope that I knew that my efforts would impact those children, and generations of children, for the rest of their lives! They now have the opportunity to live a life full of options, rather than a life of desperation. The privilege of receiving an education and having access to clean drinking water was something I had always taken for granted, just as most Americans do, and yet, seventy-five million children worldwide between the ages of six and fourteen are denied basic education, and one in every five children does not have access to clean drinking water. I believe that I changed those statistics for two villages in Africa. I am looking forward to receiving pictures of the new school in Sierra Leone and of the children who will attend the school.
I also believe that the literacy center at the women’s shelter will impact many children, since the mothers and their children stay at the shelter during a very pivotal time in their lives. The children have suffered enormously and are often frightened or angry, or both. The room offers a place where they can feel safe, and it offers books and learning as a joyful means to escape a difficult situation. I believe that the literacy center will help reading and learning take on a special meaning for the many children who pass through the shelter.
I believe that supporting programs like Reach Out and Read, since the program has had significant impact on increasing literacy in low income areas throughout the United States, and because it prevents children from slipping through the education system before they even begin school. Studies have shown that exposing children to the wonder of books at a very young age and throughout childhood dramatically increases literacy. The most important asset that the program has is books, so I believe that by providing books to this program I have directly impacted as many children as there were books given.
I am really excited about our new projects this year. We have adopted another village in Sierra Leone, and will provide the funds to build a school and a water purification system there. We are also developing a domestic program which I think can have a direct affect on kids in the United States. It’s more difficult to dramatically impact children’s literacy in the United States because we already have schools in place, but many schools in the U.S. have very low reading proficiency rates. We can potentially have a significant impact on those kids. We hope to have that program in place within the next month or two.
It seems that you are very successful in raising funds for your various projects. To what would you attribute that success?
I think the two things that have most helped us raise funds are that I am very persistent and that I use a variety of ways to raise money. We’ve sold t-shirts, sent letters out to the community, and a number of other activities.
Here’s a related question how do you spread the word?
Initially, I spread the word by twice showing a video presentation during school assembly at my high school and by writing letters. Now, I have written six books and the first book of the five-book series had been published, so I have been speaking at schools around the country to 4-8 graders. I talk to them about writing and about literacy, and then I try to inspire them to reach out and help others.
What drives you to continue to do this? Will you continue your work throughout your adult years?
I continue to do this because I believe my efforts are making a significant difference in the lives of hundreds of children, and because I really believe that one person really can make a difference in the world. I plan to continue to combat illiteracy and poverty throughout my adult years – how could I ever stop reaching out when I know that I can make a significant impact?
What would you envision your organization doing in 5 years from now?
I envision Breaking the Chain continuing to combat illiteracy and poverty for children through education in much the same way it is now, but perhaps on a larger scale.
What have you learned from doing this? How has it affected you as a person?
The most important thing I learned from my volunteer work is that one person can make a significant difference in the lives of many people. I think that we too often feel overwhelmed by the problems in the world and we throw up our hands in defeat, but if each of us were to set our mind to doing something, we really could change the world. I would encourage other young people to find something that you believe in and go out there and make it happen. There will be times when it is difficult to accomplish your goals, but if you persevere you really can change the world.
This week’s featured hero is Chloe Maxmin, a teenager who works tirelessly to improve the environment. She is also a bit of a social entrepreneur in her tactics which is another quality I admire. We are so proud to have her as part of the Kids Are Heroes family. So, without further ado let me introduce you to Chloe Maxmin in her own words:
The Climate Action Club is coming to the end of our second year of operations. We worked on many projects this year. Most importantly, we moved into the action phase of our reusable bag campaign. In the fall we began an outreach effort in our town to inform local citizens about our work. I believe that education is the key to motivate people to act. I created an 11-minute movie entitled “First Here, Then Everywhere”, which illustrates how plastic bags harm our environment. (You can see it on YouTube!) I also created two fact sheets with data about the negative impact of plastic bags. We used these tools to inform the merchants and community members. My analysis determined that, based on conservative estimates, we can eliminate at least 671,000 plastic bags annually, which equals 4.8 x 10^10 lbs of CO2 and 398,930,400 BTU’s. It means fewer bags in our landfills each year leaching toxic chemicals into our soil and harming local wildlife and marine life. Our local community cable channel agreed to air my video “First Here, Then Everywhere” several times a week. I also developed a relationship with our local newspaper for a standing headline and semimonthly column for the club. I have authored several of these, and have invited other club members to contribute. We also have guest writers.
Merchants began to sign our pledge cards, committing themselves to the goals of our campaign. We stood outside local shops to hand out our fact sheet along with free canvas bags to shoppers. Together these efforts created community-wide awareness and support for our campaign.
Early this winter, the CAC organized a merchants’ meeting. We invited all local merchants to attend a meeting to discuss the campaign and reassess the best possible course of action. CAC members ran the meeting. We showed the film, “First Here, Then Everywhere”. Former Maine representative Ted Koffman, who pioneered legislation for reusable bags, and Suzette Bergeron, an expert in reusable bags, were our guest speakers.
The meeting was a success. There continues to be enormous support for a town-wide reusable bag. We discussed the economics of the campaign and what type of bag we should use. We decided that a sturdy but non-expensive bag would be optimum.
During this time the economic crisis was growing and hitting the local merchants quite hard. I understood that this made it difficult for many of them to invest as much as they would have liked in our bag campaign. In response to this situation, we decided to slightly alter our strategy.
In March I learned that I had won the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, a $1000 prize given to one high school student volunteer in each state. I decided to use that money as a challenge grant for the reusable bag campaign. We opened up the sponsorship process to individual citizens and other community organizations, as well as the merchants. The challenge grant was announced at a school assembly, in our newspaper column, and also covered in a news article.
I spoke to many local groups during the late winter and early spring. By early May we had raised $3500 in response to the challenge grant. We have purchased our first installment of ~2000 large polypropylene bags made of 20% recycled materials, which we will sell for $2.00 in local shops, the library, at school, and elsewhere. The bags will have a town logo on one side, and logos or names of sponsors on the other side. All the proceeds will be reinvested to buy more bags. This will establish a permanent fundraising effort to continuously recruit more sponsors, so we will have a growing revenue stream to invest in more bags. Finally, I am continuing to apply for grants in order to raise more money for this effort. With 2000 bags to sell, we can afford to give some away at Senior Homes, or sell them at a discount price at local events.
I have established a relationship with a company that recycles #5 plastics, including our polypropylene bags, and turns them into durable, recyclable, kitchenware. This means we can offer a way to collect and recycle our bags when they begin to degrade.
Through our column and other means (emails, handouts, local television, radio, and elected officials) we will educate people as to why they should reject plastic bags. This is a concrete behavioral change that reminds people on a daily basis of what is at stake for our planet. As tiny Damariscotta joins San Francisco, London, and China in this effort, we will make the case that every individual and small town has a giant role to play in the fight against global warming.
Kyle and Brady Baldwin started My Own Book, an organization that spreads the joy of reading nationally by having teen volunteers visit less fortunate K-3rd grade classrooms, read a story aloud, tell about the public library, and then let the children pick a brand new book of their very own. Bookplates with the child’s name are added to each book. The kids love having a book of their very own, and often it is their very first book. So far, over 17,000 books have been distributed.
A Call to Action!
Summer is here and we’d like to invite teens throughout the country to make a difference! At My Own Book we spread the joy of reading by visiting K-3rd grade classrooms, reading a story, and letting the children pick out a brand new book of their very own. We concentrate on visiting schools and libraries that draw children from homes where owning books is uncommon. For many of these children the books they choose will be the first book that have ever owned themselves. We’re rewarded with smiles and the children’s joy. It is wonderful. We’ve given out almost 20,000 books so far and we want to give out 5,000 books this summer. If you are a teen you can have a fun and rewarding summer. Visit our website at www.myownbook.net to see how to put on an event. Then, contact a school or library and set up an event. Next, contact us at email@example.com to tell us about your plan and we will get you books and bookplates.
Make a plan to do something this summer that will impact your life, improve a child’s life, and change our community. Together, we can!
Lexxi Saal is a Kids Are Heroes member and she recently wrote and recorded a beautiful song in tribute to our men and women in the Armed Forces. She is also on Twitter.
Inspirational 12 year old Lexxi recently wrote and recorded an original song “Thank You”. Lexxi has dedicated it to all of the men and women in the Armed Forces.
Lexxi said, “Memorial Day is much more than a day off at the beach…the soldiers don’t get a day off. They are making endless sacrifices everyday to keep us all safe. I want to inspire everyone to take a moment and really give the thanks the deserve.”
Quite an inspirational and compassionate young lady Lexxi also founded www.LexxiLoves.org a foundation that gives support to the children in foster care.
Nicholas Giordano (13), from New Jersey, USA has been helping others since a very young age. Collecting money, coats and food for the poor or sick was something he was always involved with. He began studying classical guitar at the age of 7 and it wasn’t long before he became known as a classical guitar prodigy. He wanted to use his talent to help other children. By the time Nicholas was 10 he created an organization called “Strings from the Heart” and performed his first solo charity concert which raised $6,000 for children with cancer and serious blood disorders. With this money he purchased all new music equipment for the Music Therapy Clinic that works with the children to manage their pain through music. It was a thrill for him to personally pick out the new guitars, drums, amplifiers, karaoke machines and such that he would later deliver to the hospital with his family. Nicholas describes this day as “the greatest day of my life”. Soon he was planning his next benefit concert, which was a huge success, raising a whopping $12,000! All the money was donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of NJ and Nicholas was able to adopt the wishes of two children from New Jersey by sending a young boy on a Disney Dream Vacation with his family and providing a teenager with a special studio laptop, software and recording equipment. “It’s very satisfying for me to raise this money and if I can help make someone’s day a little brighter after all they have had to endure with their illness, then I know that I’m making a difference in someone’s life”.
Nicholas has also performed for other charities such as Habitat for Humanity; OASIS; Gilda’s Club, PAWS and Eva’s Village.
Academics play a very important role in Nicholas’s life and he continues to be a top student in all subjects. Nicholas is ranked in the top 2% in the Nation for Mathematics and Science and was accepted into International Mensa this past year.
Nicholas starts high school this fall and plans on continuing the “Strings from the Heart” concert series. Stay tuned for his new project that will put used music equipment into the hands of underprivileged children. If you would like to help Nicholas on his path of philanthropy, email Guitarbenefit@aol.com.