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Gifts of the Heart from our Young Heroes
During this season of giving, Barron Prize young heroes remind us that the best gifts are ones of the heart. Our winners and honorees are giving love and hope in myriad, meaningful ways. Some are helping the hungry and the homeless. Many are protecting our planet and endangered species. Others are supporting vulnerable people overseas. All are acting with great compassion to make the world a better place – and are inspiring others by their example!
Below, we share what some of our young heroes are doing these days to make a difference. We hope you enjoy reading about their gifts of the heart.
Wishing everyone Happy Holidays full of joy and love!
Sofie is in the final stretch of her BloomBox project, funded through sales of her artwork. She has worked for months from her backyard to repurpose a shipping container into an off-grid computer lab for a high school in Blantyre, Malawi. She and her team recently tested all of the solar power elements and are now disassembling everything to pack it for safe shipment. In February, the container will be lifted by crane out of Sofie’s backyard to start its long journey from Vancouver, B.C. to Malawi. Sofie is excited to travel to Africa in July to meet the shipment and set up her lab!
Hollis is just $30,000 shy of her goal to raise $500,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital! For over six years, she has used her passion for soccer to fundraise for St. Jude’s fight against childhood cancer. She is currently working with a renowned psychophysics researcher, Howard Moskowitz, applying his research on human decision-making to help nonprofits optimize donor support. She is also talking with students via Zoom about finding ways to give back and is available to work with schools across the country!
Kate is supporting rangers on the ground in Africa who are working tirelessly to protect wildlife. As part of Endangered Rangers, she recently joined Debra Messing, Dave Matthews, and others on a televised fundraiser. Visit the Endangered Rangers website to learn more!
Justin is working to protect and purchase 244 acres of land in Ecuador with his Reserva Youth Council. He is raising money through his Go Fund Me Kid Hero Campaign and is just $880 away from reaching his two-acre goal! He hopes to help protect 30% of the planet by 2030, conserving it for both people and frogs. Justin also continues to collect plastic caps and recycle them into beautiful bowls using equipment in his garage.
Sammie served as a Giving Tuesday Sparks Leader earlier this month, part of a crew of young people who encourage participation on Giving Tuesday. She supported her local Boys and Girls Club that day with a donation of new games and $600. She recently helped sort 800 pounds of plastic caps for her city’s Parks and Recreation department, which will place recycled buddy benches in local parks. She has also just wrapped up the second month of her new Sammie Smiles podcast, where she interviews inspiring people as a way to spread smiles.
Madhvi recently scored a win for the environment when the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission adopted her requests for more stringent rules to protect groundwater and surface water during fracking and drilling. She has also launched an International Signature Campaign to Ban Styrofoam, asking citizens and world leaders to join her campaign to ban single-use plastic flatware and containers. Visit Madhvi’s website to sign her petition.
Dana is busy baking and selling cookies to raise awareness and donations for research into rare pediatric diseases. She is currently supporting research into spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and an ultra rare disease called Multicentric Carpotarsal Osteolysis (MCTO). She recently taught several live baking classes and created a cookie bake-along video!
Grace and her We Cancerve team are brightening the holidays for families in need. Thanks to a grant from World of Children, her group has sponsored Christmas gifts for children in six families who are living in area motels. Grace appealed to community members for additional donations so that the children could purchase gifts for their parents. Additionally, she was recently named one of the first recipients of Youth to the Front Fund, a new initiative of the We Are Family Foundation. The funding will allow her to establish free libraries in transitional housing and other low-income communities in her area.
Ruby Kate and her network of volunteers continue to fulfill nursing home residents’ wishes for items like pillows, socks, and small treats. Her work is especially timely and welcomed given the elderly’s isolation during the pandemic. She recently created the Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents Community Center as a way to connect seniors with younger generations. She hopes the center will help preserve vintage skills like quilting and canning through classes taught by seniors. The center includes a large lending library and a “Window of Wishes” so that passersby can stop in to fulfill wishes from local nursing home residents.
Ray supports youth in Uganda by sponsoring schooling, soccer training, and health education camps. He blogs regularly about his work and wrote the following in a recent post: “At Ray United, we have tried to make sure that our sponsored students who are learning remotely during the pandemic are in safe homes and have the tools and resources they need to stay in school. We have provided laptops, modems, and cell phones to the youth who need them… The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly illustrated both how connected we are and how vastly unequal the world is. At this time, we all need to be focused on continuing to help #levelthefield for all youth.”