Just like any other charity in this economy we struggle with getting donations. Maybe it’s the word “donation” that’s part of the problem. When you donate something, it typically gets used up rather quickly, and then you are asked to donate again. I am going to start thinking more in terms of “investment”. After all, in my mind that is what it really is, an investment in our children’s future.
Now that may come off as sounding a bit arrogant, but if I didn’t believe that Kids Are Heroes® could ultimately have a significant impact on the children both in America and across the globe I wouldn’t have put so much effort and time into it since its inception almost five years ago. The organization has accomplished many things in five years, but what we have done has only scratched the surface of what we plan to do once we get funding. Translating the site into multiple languages, developing resources for schools, creating local KAH clubs and hosting more events for heroes in different cities are just some of the plans we have as we grow.
Show Me The Impact
If you are not familiar with Kids Are Heroes, among other things, we showcase children who give back to their community. We have discovered by doing this that it creates an environment where volunteering is “normal” for kids. I liken this to a sky-diving experience I had when I was young. I’m no daredevil but I figured at the time it was a good way to impress a girl I had a crush on. Now jumping out of a plane is a daunting and scary task. However we trained for hours at the facility. As we trained we witnessed plane after plane go up and dump out a bunch of people, all who landed safely. It became “normal” which made it much easier.
Having 300+ children from 10 countries who all do amazing things for others creates a sense of normalcy for the children who visit our site. They are empowered to do something on their own and end up becoming part of the larger Kids Are Heroes community as they themselves are featured.
Why Kids Should Volunteer
Ok so we get kids to volunteer. So what? Well despite the fact that they are helping others, becoming more aware and compassionate, they are all developing critical skills that will benefit them throughout their entire lives. I have seen time after time how the opportunities that are given them help their confidence and self esteem. Once branded a “hero” many of them want to keep that moniker by continuing to do good for others. They are ALL developing leadership skills that will help shape them into better adults. Period. Volunteering with your children is also an excellent opportunity to spend meaningful time together.
Kids Are Heroes Day
We recently celebrated our fifth annual Kids Are Heroes Day here in Frederick, Maryland. Each year we invite all the children from our site to be together and to celebrate what they do. Since they will indeed be leaders in a few years we help them develop their networks early. Some are outcasts and bullied because they are doing something “different”. When these kids meet up with each other they are so gratified that there are indeed other kids like them and their batteries are recharged when they return. Past attendees have come from all over the US, Canada, and even South Africa and Kenya. Here is what one mom had to say about our most recent event:
“. . .we would drive hundreds and hundreds of miles (and through storms and states of emergencies) to be a part of your event again. It was INCREDIBLE and we are so impressed at how wonderful the event had turned out. My girls, Julia and Emma Mogus, have bonded with some incredible heroes in your country and ours, including your beautiful and heart warming daughter, MaryMargaret! The entire day and evening was very well organized and we feel privileged to have been a part of this incredible and historical event. We walked away better citizens and with a greater awareness of some of the issues facing our children and communities, both locally and internationally.”
I have said many times that Kids Are Heroes started as a father-daughter project. Thanks to our kids it has developed into something well beyond just the two of us. And with the help of others it has the ability to become a beacon for kids all over the world to help them build a better life for themselves and others. Now to me, that sounds like something I want to invest in.
To invest in Kids Are Heroes (and get some great exposure for yourself or your business) please visit our Video Donor Wall. Or if you’d rather, simply click the PayPal Invest button below! Thank you so much!!
MaryMargaret and I presented Kids Are Heroes to a group of business people last week and after watching three videos and hearing the entire presentation, one man stood up and said, “I still don’t get what you do.”
I get that our mission is not as simple as feeding the hungry, or curing cancer, or drilling water wells in third world countries even though many of our kids are working to solve these issues. But many people do connect with what we do instantly in a visceral manner just by visiting our website and that’s because of the kids. By showcasing more than 300 children who give back to their communities in their own personal way we have created an atmosphere where volunteering at a very young age is normal, accepted, and that every one can do it. Besides having a great impact on others, these children are developing skills that they would never learn in schools and becoming compassionate leaders.
Another thing that many don’t understand is the significance of Kids Are Heroes Day. Tomorrow will mark our fifth event and the Francis Scott Key Mall in Frederick, Maryland. Even though we have kids coming from 11 states and even Canada, the regional media outlets have never paid any mind to it. But to be a witness on this day is nothing short of magical. All these children (50 are scheduled to be here this year) have giving hearts and do not want any recognition. All they want is to share their stories and get other kids involved. For six hours this gathering provides a warm and comfortable cocoon of hope and wonder to all who attend. This is the best way I can describe it because that’s exactly how it has felt to me the last four years. My only frustration is that I can’t share this feeling with everyone.
The third event in our history was held in Gettysburg, PA in the summer of 2010. Since people were traveling from all over to be there, we held a private reception for the heroes and their families that evening. It was only scheduled to go between 6 and 8PM. There happened to be an indoor swimming pool next to the reception area which was all the kids needed. Even though the reception ended at 8, everyone stayed until the pool closed at 10. At that time the kids hatched a plan to go back to the rooms, change clothes, and meet in the lobby simply because they did not want the night to end. Most of these kids had never met each other before the day began. So this is why we hold our receptions at a nearby hotel with a pool near the reception area. I cannot tell you how much this means to the children. They energize each other for the next year to keep up their philanthropic efforts. Again, it is nothing short of magical.
At this time I would like to again publicly thank all of our sponsors and volunteers who are making this event better than ever. Our keynote speaker, Allisyn Ashley Arm, is flying in from California. Leify Green will be debuting his new Kids Are Heroes song around noon, and will also be entertaining us at the reception. Mary Kate McKenna, John Waire, David Spence and Bob Carney are all professional photographers taking turns at capturing both events. A Touch of Class Limousines has donated limo service to and from the airport for our keynote. And DJ Patrick will be spinning tunes and hosting karaoke at the latter half of our reception.
But let’s not forget our official sponsor, Kibooku, a company all the way from Arbroath, Scotland that donated $3000 to cover our expenses for the reception. This will be our biggest turnout ever and we certainly could not have done it without them. So I urge parents to check out their safer social media site for kids aged 6-13. A lot of research and passion went in to the design and creation of this site as the owner has twin daughters in that age range.
So if you are going to be in the area, we hope you come by. This is truly something you will never forget.
If you have been following our progress the last few months, you will know that we have been working feverishly to organize our 5th Annual Kids Are Heroes Day to be held at the Francis Scott Key Mall in Frederick, Maryland on October 27th. This is a celebration of the children from our website as we invite all of them to attend. Sadly we cannot afford to cover their travel expenses, so only the ones who can afford to attend make the trip. Since Disney star Allisyn Ashley Arm agreed to be our headliner we have attracted more heroes and more people who are interested in coming. Like any other non-profit, we must come up with a way to pay for all of this. Thankfully we have had some good support from our fans via our Donor Walls, but not enough to cover the event. This is the part where I must travel outside of my comfort zone; the part where I have to go out and approach local businesses. So I “took one for the team” and did solicit 15 local businesses over a period of time with marginal success. I did receive lots of encouragement from them however. Everyone loved what we were doing, but the economy has hit our local businesses as hard as it has hit everyone else and most of them respectfully declined.
“You are doing it the right way,” they said. “You must talk to people face to face. You can’t do this through social media.” Despite the fact that our tail was between our legs we didn’t give up. It became a challenge to us to prove the folks wrong who said it couldn’t be done through social media. We thought that surely some company would see the value in what we were doing and how we would promote them. So we wrote a blog post about what sponsors could expect. Despite the fact that our event is local, it attracts people from all over the world. After all, our heroes (49 at last count) are coming from 3 countries and 11 states in the US. We have a significant global following that we would respectfully share with our “Official Sponsor”. The challenge would be to send out the link enough times so people could see it but not too many times as to annoy our regular fans.
Then it happened. After sending a link to that blog post out via Twitter, we received a tweet from someone asking “Would you consider an overseas sponsor?” After confirming who it was I said “Why not?” and the talks were underway. We Skyped the next week and by that Friday we had the $3000.00, the price of being an “Official Sponsor”, in our account.
When I asked Jamie Tosh, owner of Kibooku.com, what he hoped to gain from this relationship he simply stated that “I wouldn’t say it’s all for gain. We think what you do is great and we are happy to be in the position to sponsor your event. If it gets us any recognition over there at all then that’s a plus for us. At the end of the day it benefits us to be attached to you.” He went on to say, “I think what you’re doing is fantastic. I think that your daughter to come up with the idea and how far you’ve got with it is absolutely amazing.”
Jamie with his twin daughters Kenah and Leah
Jamie is the founder of Kibooku, a safer social networking site for kids aged 6-13. The company is based out of Arbroath, Scotland, some 3500 miles away from Frederick, Maryland in the USA. They have only launched their site about three months ago and already have hundreds of subscribers. It is clear that their efforts fit perfectly with our demographic. But what I like about them even more is that I see similarities between Jamie’s journey and ours. Jamie has twin girls in the 7th grade. One of them, unbeknownst to him, was being cyber-bullied on a chat site by a classmate. After dealing with the school and the other child’s parents, Jamie decided to look for a safer environment for his kids to participate in while they are online. He searched for sites and didn’t find anything that satisfied him, so he decided to create one himself. Now what I think is very cool about this story is that Jamie is not a computer techie who can just do this at will. He is a former architect who now owns his own construction company. He admits he doesn’t even have his own Facebook account. But he had the passion to protect his twins and went about creating a safe environment for kids. He believes his is the only social networking site for kids (including those hosted in the US) that makes sure an adult is involved by forcing the adult to pay a minimal annual fee via credit card (for tracing purposes) and by shutting down the child’s account if the adult does not physically monitor the child’s activity on a regular basis.
So as it turns out I don’t think I could be happier about our relationship. A non-profit cannot necessarily afford to choose where the money comes from, so we are thrilled that it came from someone with similar experiences to us. And we honestly do hope that we can help raise visibility for his company in the US and around the world. Now if I could just understand him when we converse then that’ll be the icing on the cake. :-)
We are less than 2 months out from our 5th annual Kids Are Heroes Day, which will be celebrated at the Francis Scott Key Mall in Frederick, Maryland on October 27th, 2012. We are expecting 50 heroes from 3 countries to attend. They will join us in a day of celebration as we honor children who give back to their communities and get other families involved. If you are in the area on that day we encourage you to spend some time with these wonderful kids as past events have proven to be no less than magical.
These children, aged from 6-17, will share tables at the center court of the mall as they showcase their charities and give speeches about what they do.
From the hit Disney TV shows “So Random” and “Sonny with a Chance”, Allisyn Ashley Arm who played Zora on those shows will be our keynote speaker. She will also be available for a special “meet-n-greet” session where all the lucky kids in attendance will get a chance to take their pictures with Allisyn.
Disney Star Allisyn Ashley Arm (left) and MaryMargaret O’Neill, Founder of Kids Are Heroes
The above photo is a depiction of what the back drop of the photos may look like. Of course we are looking for a sponsor to claim that logo and become the “Official Sponsor” of Kids Are Heroes Day 2012. If you are a local business the great thing about it is most of the attendees will obviously be local. If you are more of a national company, we do have kids coming from Florida, Illinois, West Virginia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, New York, Maryland, Canada and Trinidad & Tobago. Most of the children who get their pictures taken will be posting on their Facebook pages which will likely be shared by their friends, parents and grandparents thus pushing the campaign to a national audience. We hope to serve 500 kids at this meet-n-greet.
We expect the costs of this event to be $5000 which includes bringing the talent to the event and providing a reception for the heroes and their families that evening. We offer the reception so that the kids may bond with each other as they give each other renewed energy to continue their work. The cost for the “Official Sponsor” is $3000.00 which will also include your logo on the backdrop and also on the 8×10 signed photos of Allisyn Ashley Arm as long as you sign up by September 30th.
If the $3000.00 is out of your range and you still want to help, we offer our “Kids Are Heroes Day Donor Wall” where you can select any amount from $25 to $1000. Please give if you can. These children never ask for anything in return for what they do and this day is so important to them. Some are even bullied for what they do and meeting other kids who are just like them can be a catharsis for them.
Update 09/21/2012: Well the logo has been taken!! We are proud to announce that we do indeed now have an official sponsor. We have to give out our deepest thanks to the folks at Kibooku.com for sponsoring us!! Please check out their social networking site for kids. We will have a more in depth piece written about them soon, so stay tuned. . .
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??????”
Read Jaevin’s profile on the Kids Are Heroes website.
Aunt Mary and MaryMargaret in 2008
My Aunt Mary was the “last one standing”, as it were. That is, she was the last representative of my parents, aunts and uncles — that whole generation of my family. She was actually the wife of my Uncle George, who was my Mom’s brother. She lived for more than a century, just passing away last year. She had been a school teacher in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania for 27 years. She and her husband George were never “well off” but lived happily in their modest home. In the end, Aunt Mary was extremely stubborn and did not want to go to a nursing home. Even when she finally complied she never sold her home; always with the hopes that she would return to it one day.
Well this day we received a check in the mail from Aunt Mary’s estate. It was for $1000.00 to be donated to Kids Are Heroes. Even in her passing she is still helping children. We will treasure this donation and intend to use it to help sponsor one of our hero’s travel and lodging expenses to Kids Are Heroes Day in October. Thanks so much, Aunt Mary and I expect to see you smiling down on us this October 27th.
When I speak with parents whose children give back I hear this statement often: “My kids sometimes feel weird and alienated.” The reason they feel this way is because they may have a number of friends who do not understand why they give of their time and raise money for other people. In the age of video games and self-absorption, sometimes giving children are exiled from their peers and labeled as ‘do-gooders’. We at Kids Are Heroes are trying to change that mindset. Besides affecting people and our planet in a positive way we have learned that children who volunteer and give back are learning valuable life skills and becoming compassionate leaders. It’s cool to give back.
Update: 6/22/2012 We also know that kids are even bullied for doing things for others. Calista is one of several of our heroes who have had that experience. Her mom tweeted on how we have helped her.
We’ve also discovered that the children who feel this way go through a marvelous transition when they meet other kids who have giving hearts. They quickly learn that they are not strange, that there ARE other kids like them and that they too are supported by their parents and other adults. These encounters “recharge their batteries” and help to inspire them to continue their giving efforts. This is one of the valuable lessons Kids Are Heroes Day has taught us. I just had a telephone discussion with a mother of two heroes from Trinidad and Tobago. She is now in the throes of planning their trip to Maryland in October for Kids Are Heroes Day 2012. Some of the comments she made were, “peers from my country don’t believe kids can affect change” and “my children often times do feel alienated”. Before she has ever attended one of our events she understands the benefit it will have on her heroes.
Unfortunately many of these children cannot afford to come. We would like nothing more than to fly all of them to Maryland and house and feed them all through the weekend. But we simply cannot afford to do that. We are hoping that we can bring at least one family to Maryland in October, but need your help to do it. Please consider buying a brick on our Kids Are Heroes Day Donor Wall. Besides offering you exposure in return, you will know that you have touched the lives of some pretty amazing kids.
Kids Are Heroes Day 10/27/12