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Cause for Celebration: 20 Years of Honoring Young Heroes

by | Aug 26, 2020

We’re excitedly preparing to announce the 20th class of Barron Prize young heroes! 

Our fabulous new winners and honorees are doing so much good in the world and we can’t wait to welcome them to our Barron Prize family. With their addition, we’ll have honored almost 500 public-spirited young people over the past two decades! They hail from all 50 states and across Canada and have raised more than $24 million for their causes.

Our winners’ announcement on September 14 will culminate our 20th anniversary year. We’re thrilled to have marked this milestone by launching new initiatives to showcase our young heroes and inspire others to take action. Highlights of our anniversary year happenings include:

  • Inspiring Young Heroes, a new website and collection of short, heartening videos featuring the life-changing work of Barron Prize winners. Young heroes narrate their personal journeys to make a difference, with new videos continually added to the site.
  • The Young Heroes Summit, a late-July virtual gathering of Barron Prize winners and other young changemakers. The youth-led webinar featured past winners as panelists who shared their experiences, offered insights, and left us all uplifted and inspired.
  • Our Yearbook of Young Heroes, a celebratory social media campaign that’s currently running on Instagram. Starting with our earliest winners back in 2001, daily posts are chronicling each year’s young heroes leading up to our 2020 winners’ announcement.

As we reflect on the past two decades, we’re deeply grateful for our winners and honorees, their families, our national partners, and for countless others who believe in and support the Barron Prize. We’re so very proud of our young heroes for the ideals they demonstrate and the important, powerful work they do. And we’re convinced we need heroes more than ever – people whose character and actions can inspire us all to make a positive difference.

Barron Prize founder and author T. A. Barron writes about the need for heroes in the following reprinted essay. He also writes about his mother, Gloria Barron (for whom the Prize is named), and her deeply-held belief that every person has the power to make the world a better place. Our 20 years’ worth of young heroes live out and honor her conviction beautifully — and that’s cause for celebration, for sure!

We Need Heroes

T. A. Barron

We all need heroes. I truly believe this. That’s why I’ve always placed a young hero, a girl or a boy, at the heart of each of my books—a character who has to dig deep in herself or himself to find something extraordinary like courage, perseverance, compassion, or hope. And those young heroes have the power to change the world!

Readers can relate to these characters because they are regular young people who seem very familiar. But just like every young person, they have the magic of a hero down inside.

When young people read about these characters, they are often asking similar questions in their own lives: Who am I, really? What’s important to me? How do I find my place in the world? And the biggest question of all: Does my one life really matter?

The heroes we meet in stories can inspire all of us to do great things, by the way they overcome challenges and by the lives that they lead. These people are essentially our trail guides on the mysterious and challenging trail of life. As our guides, they help us know just how far we can go—and just how high we can climb.

Here’s the best news of all: Heroes aren’t found just in stories. There are many more heroes right around us, in everyday life. And they’re not always the people we expect.

In today’s never-silent, 24/7 media culture, it’s very easy to confuse heroes with celebrities—people whose faces we see on the covers of magazines, on TV shows, and on the Internet. But heroism doesn’t come from being famous or wealthy.

Being a hero is about character. It’s something that happens within a person. It comes from qualities that are inside us all right at this moment. Qualities like courage, compassion, and the perseverance to carry on in spite of great obstacles. (I feel so strongly about this that I wrote a book about it, The Hero’s Trail, which has true stories about heroic young people, along with ideas about how to bring out the hero in each of us.)

My mother, Gloria, is the first person who shaped my ideas about what it means to be a hero. Not by anything she said—but simply by how she lived. How she enriched the lives of those around her, just by being a mother and a devoted teacher.

She was a woman who loved children and nature, and who spent more than twenty years creating a touchable nature museum for the Colorado School for the Blind, where kids can feel the delicacy of a hummingbird’s nest, the warmth of a polar bear’s fur, and the majestic span of an eagle’s wings. She always encouraged me and my brothers and sisters that each of us—and not just us, but every person in the world—has the power to make a difference.

That’s why, when I founded a national prize to honor inspiring young people, I named that prize after my mother. Each year, the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates 25 young leaders for the work they’re doing in their communities. They are girls and boys, ages 8 to 18, from every diverse background—and each of these young people has a story that deserves to be told.