In February of 2008, I just happened to catch an interview on TV.  It was Charlie Rose interviewing Sir Richard Branson.  The focus of the interview was not so much his successes but what he plans to do from here on.  Branson introduced me to the concept of “social entrepreneurship” which is very intriguing to me.   I asked myself, “what entrepreneurial skills do I have that I can use to help others?”  One answer was website design and development.  I had recently heard about some fantastic kids doing wonderful things in their communities.  Also at that time my daughter MaryMargaret had asked me to build her a website…
“Kids are Heroes” was spawned by these three inspirations.  This is a website dedicated to teaching kids about giving at an early age.  We do this by showcasing amazing children up to the age of 18 who have done their part to change the world.  The concept is that parents lead their children to the site and the kids form their own ideas on how they can get involved.  Once they see what other kids are doing and how easy it is, they also become inspired to help.  Case in point: one of our neighbors (his name is John and he is 8 years old) who saw the site told his mom that he wanted to do something too.  He is a real animal lover but he inherently knew that lots of people are already helping animals.  There aren’t many kids helping families with premature babies (John was premature himself).  So that is his cause – he started an aluminum can drive to buy gift bags for families at hospitals who have “preemies”.  He solicited Boyd’s Bears for clothing and stuffed animals and asked people to knit little hats.   He enlisted women in nursing homes to knit him quilts. After personally delivering 36 gift baskets to the Shady Grove Hospital, this 8-year-old boy turned to his mom and said, “Mom, that was the most important thing I’ve ever done.”  This is exactly what the website is designed to do.  This boy’s life has changed as has the lives of his family.
MaryMargaret (who is now 11 years old) and I are co-founders of the site.  She is involved in the content, design – she even drew the logo herself.  This will be a great teaching tool for her – it will ultimately be her legacy. She has also been featured on the site three times and soon a fourth for her Music for Life project.
One of the greatest things about the site is the diversity of ways kids are helping and the variety of their causes.  From holding read-a-thons to lemonade stands to giving up birthday gifts to having their hair removed are just some of the ways kids are helping.  Aiding kids with cancer, senior citizens, blind horses, preemie babies, rescue organizations, orphans in India and Afghanistan, homeless people – all walks of life are being assisted.  Meeting these children has indeed been a humbling experience for me.  We have one boy Ryan who drilled his first well in Uganda when he was 7.  Ryan is 18 now and his foundation has drilled over 500 wells in 16 countries helping over 600,000 people.  Another boy, Dylan, has over 20,000 young volunteers helping him end poverty by the year 2015 – an idea draw up by the United Nations called the “Millennium Development Goals.”  He is a 14-year-old boy who speaks to large audiences all over the world.  Then we have 5-year-old Mia who heard about the web site from her mom and said, “Mom, we can help Mr. Doug!”  “Mr. Doug” is a neighbor down the street who is handicapped and can no longer keep up his yard.  Each week they plant flowers, rake leaves, or find another way to help.  We paint all these stories with the same brush because whatever a child does along these lines is a great learning experience. We were also excited to discover that this activity builds self-confidence and sharpens leadership skills.
Since our inception we have grown to feature over 100 heroes from all over the United States and Canada.  We have been featured on Sir Richard Branson’s web site and through his “PitchTV” concept have had our video shown on Virgin Atlantic planes in the month of June 2009.  Our local mall holds a yearly Kids Are Heroes Day.  We just recently partnered with ex-NFL star Levar Fisher who is currently touring the country speaking about us to kids of all ages.  Our involvement in social media has indeed opened a lot of new doors for us. It is our vision to make Kids Are Heroes a globally recognized organization in ten years.
One of the reasons we are successful is because we do not tell kids what they have to do. By reading the different stories on our site they find their own passion. Since they are now doing something they believe in they stick with it.
To get involved we recommend parents to sit down with their children and read the stories. Check out the “Become a Hero” section for other ideas.  Once the hero has settled on a plan, execute it.  As soon as the project is completed a parent can nominate a child on our site directly.  This is not about the recognition. Most of the kids on our site could care less about the accolades. It is about raising awareness for the cause and getting other kids to join in.
Gabe O’Neill
Recruiting Kids Are Heroes Ambassadors right now!
Kids are Heroes, link HERE.

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