Thursday, June 21, 2012

15 Young Community Service Leaders Named Huggable Heros

Build-A-Bear Workshop Honors Young Social Entrepreneurs

In celebration of the company’s 15th birthday, Build-A-Bear Workshop® will honor 15 Huggable Heroes this year and donate $150,000 to their education and charitable causes. The national youth program, which recognizes young people for giving back to their communities and around the world, awards each Huggable Hero $10,000 (a $7,500 educational scholarship and $2,500 from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation to be donated to the 501(c)(3) charity or Canadian cause of the Huggable Hero’s choice). This year, in addition to attending an awards ceremony at Build-A-Bear Workshop World Bearquarters in St. Louis, the Huggable Heroes will also participate in a service project at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® in Memphis, Tenn. The service project and awards celebration will take place July 18-20.
“The number of Huggable Heroes this year not only celebrates our 15th birthday but also demonstrates the amount of heart that young people have when it comes to giving back,” said Maxine Clark, Build-A-Bear Workshopfounder and chief executive bear. “We’re thrilled to recognize so many young people who inspire us with their stories and dedication to volunteerism. We believe that encouraging community service at a young age helps establish a lifelong commitment to giving back and making the world a better place.”   
From providing shoes for the homeless, to recycling eye glasses, to making cupcakes to raise funds to assist children with cancer and many other philanthropic projects, this group of young social entrepreneurs has gone above and beyond to help others. Collectively, they have raised nearly $1.4 million, to support worthy causes. The Huggable Heroes have also:
  • Collected 15,500 books and 25 van loads of furnishings for orphaned and abandoned children in India and the US;
  • Made 40,000 meals, put together 6,000 backpacks of food and collected 3,000 canned goods for food banks in Texas;
  • Collected 3,000 pairs of shoes for homeless shelters across the US;
  • Built 27 new homes for the unsheltered in Haiti; and
  • Created 55 cheerleading and dance teams nationwide that include students with disabilities.
This year's honorees are:
Allyson Ahlstrom, 16, Santa Rosa, CA
Allyson created Threads for Teens, a clothing boutique that helps girls, ages 13-17, in need build self-esteem and confidence while giving them hope. Girls have the opportunity to visit the store and shop for items they need, all at no cost. So far, Allyson has raised approximately $75,000 for Threads for Teens and has recruited 30 volunteers to help with her shop. She also helped Girl Scouts receive Bronze Awards by providing opportunities for volunteerism. To date, more than 120 girls have visited her store and she has donated more than 70 backpacks filled with school supplies.
Lulu Cerone, 12, Encino, CA
Lulu created LemonAID Warriors to empower youth in her community to make a difference. Her first event was a boys vs. girls LemonAID war to benefit Haiti. This concept spread across the country and more than 500 kids ordered LemonAID kits to raise funds and the events raised $4,000 in two weeks. She has since organized community events, called “PhilanthroParties,” to inspire her peers to get involved. Lulu raised more than $12,000 to benefit various causes, collected more than 2,000 cans of food and recruited 600 volunteers to help support her efforts. 
Blakely Colvin, 17, Solvang, CA
Blakely created the nonprofit organization, Cupcakes for Cancer, to raise funds to support pediatric research, grant wishes, and assist children with cancer. She and her team of volunteers bake cupcakes that are sold after school and at local events. Through Cupcakes for Cancer, Blakely raised $85,000, granted seven wishes and has been able to provide two $1,000 college scholarships. She also designed a national outreach campaign, Frosting HOPE Across America, to inspire others to bake and donate. Fifteen states now have Cupcake Angels kids and clubs to further the cause.
Sarah Cronk, 18, Bettendorf, IA
Sarah founded The Sparkle Effect, an organization that helps students across the country form cheerleading and dance teams that include students with disabilities. Students can visit The Sparkle Effect website to obtain information on forming their own teams. The website offers a step-by-step quick-start kit for creating an inclusive team, fundraising ideas, practice tips, information on grants for uniforms and free on-site training. To date, the Sparkle Effect has raised more than $150,000 and generated 55 inclusive squads across the country.
Yash Gupta, 15, Irvine, CA
Yash created Sight Learning, a non-profit organization that supplies donated eyeglasses to students in need in the United States, Mexico, and Honduras. To date, Sight Learning has collected more than $35,000 in donations. The organization also organizes and runs eye exam clinics. Yash wears glasses himself and knows firsthand how difficult learning becomes when you do not have the glasses you need. Sight Learning has partnered with other organizations, such as VOSH and New Eyes for the Needy, and was recently recognized as an Official Presidential Volunteer Service Award Organization.

Neha Gupta, 15, Yardley, PA
Neha founded the global nonprofit organization Empower Orphans, which has established five libraries, three computer labs, one sewing school and sponsored the education of 50 children. Neha’s mission is to provide orphaned and disadvantaged children with the skills and environment to enable them to become productive members of society. Empower Orphans also provides food, clothing, footwear, health care and medical supplies to thousands of children. The organization is active in India and the United States and has raised $375,000, and collected 15,500 books and 25 van loads of furnishings.

Yoni Kalin, 17, Washington, DC
In an effort to promote recycling, Yoni founded Color My World (CMW), which collects and repurposes crayons discarded by national restaurant chains and distributes them to shelters and underfunded schools. He also created a coloring book that encourages recycling. Yoni has partnered with 27 restaurants in nine states, encouraging them to recycle crayons in a bin provided by CMW. He then sanitizes the crayons and contacts schools to organize drop-offs. Yoni has raised approximately $10,000 for his cause, collecting nearly 20,000 crayons and recruiting numerous teen volunteers to help manage the project.

Cassandra Lin, 13, Westerly, RI
After reading an article in the local newspaper, Cassandra discovered that many residents could not afford to heat their homes. Inspired by this need, she formed a team of five seventh graders to create TGIF (Turn Grease Into Fuel). She works with local biofuel companies to recycle the grease from residents and restaurants, refine it into biodiesel and distribute it to needy families and local charities. TGIF's efforts have enabled 92 families to keep warm during the cold winters. The organization also drafted and passed a newly enacted law that mandates waste cooking oil recycling in Rhode Island.

Will Lourcey, 9, Fort Worth, TX
Will created FROG, Friends Reaching Our Goals, a service group that creates programs and events to raise awareness and funding for the Tarrant Area Food Bank. As part of FROG, he started the "Hits & Kicks Against Hunger" program, where elementary students fight hunger while playing baseball, softball, and soccer. He also started FROGs at the Plate, which brings together business owners and community leaders to raise money for local food banks. To date, Will and his FROG team have donated approximately 40,000 meals, 6,000 backpacks of food, and 3,000 cans of food. 

Nicholas Lowinger, 14, Cranston, RI
Nicholas started the Gotta Have Sole Foundation, which donates new footwear to children living in homeless shelters across the United States. Shelter advocates send him footwear orders and Nicholas collects, packages, and often hand delivers the shoes. To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Nicholas held a special event to collect and send new footwear to more than 90 children of the first responders. To date, Nicolas has raised $49,000 for purchasing 3,000 pairs of shoes for homeless children.  

Madelyn McGlynn, 17, Belleville, IL
Madelyn co-founded NETwork Against Malaria (NAM) to help save Ugandan children’s lives and keep them in school. Due to malaria, the average Ugandan student misses 60 days of school per year. NAM provides malaria and health education for American and Ugandan students and raises funding for bed net distribution to Ugandan students and pregnant women. She helped raise approximately $75,000 and purchased 5,500 bed nets to protect 16,500 children and pregnant women from malaria. Her leadership has inspired 30 high school and college NAM chapters in 18 states.  

Ceilidh Millar, 18, New Westminster, BC
Ceilidh volunteers more than 40 hours a month as a teen reporter, spokesperson, and peer advocate for bullying prevention. She shares information about the dangers and consequences of bullying through presentations, television appearances and articles. Ceilidh's work has been featured on the National Bullying Prevention Center and Teens Against Bullying websites.

Catherine Mitchell, 16, Oceanside, CA
Catherine founded Beauty 4 Life, a socially minded business offering handcrafted Ugandan jewelry to create dignity, work, and opportunity for Ugandan women. The goal of Beauty 4 Life is to help the Ugandan women educate their children and provide for their families. She has built women’s centers, schools, and childcare centers. She also provided business, finance, health, and English lessons to Ugandan women. Catherine has raised more than $100,000 and donated more than 5,000 pounds of school supplies and basic items to benefit her cause.

Clara Pilley, 10, Mt. Pleasant, SC
Clara started Keys for Hope to raise money and awareness for Crisis Ministries, her local homeless shelter. Clara, with the help of her friends, decorates recycled keys with buttons and other embellishments. After the keys are decorated, each is attached to a card explaining the cause and sold as a necklace, key chain, zipper pull, or ornament. Keys for Hope has sold approximately 2,000 keys and raised $12,000. Clara chose the key because it symbolizes home and the hope for a better future for Charleston's homeless.

Rachel Wheeler, 12, Lighthouse Point, FL
Rachel raised $167,400 to build 27 two-room homes and $132,000 to build a school complete with educational supplies in Leogane, Haiti. She raised funds for her projects through garage sales, lemonade stands, school bake sales and dances, presentations to Chambers of Commerce, and speaking engagements. She supports the efforts of the nonprofit organization Food for The Poor and its quest to house the unsheltered in Haiti. 

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