MEET THE WINNERSA yearbook of the winners of the Barron Prize
Founder, Health Through Science (HTS)
Age at Winning Prize
Alex founded Health Through Science (HTS), a non-profit working to eradicate preventable diseases, especially pediatric Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) and obesity. In the past two years, he has recruited 150 student volunteers from six Austin high schools to mentor 1,500 children each month at 20 elementary schools. His volunteers act as science coaches for underserved students, promoting health awareness and teaching the material needed for kids to participate in science fair – a staple of the fourth- and fifth-grade curriculum nationwide, but an opportunity that many low-income students don’t have.
Alex began his health advocacy as a fifth-grader after meeting a boy with pediatric T2D. When he learned the disease is preventable yet rampant in his Hispanic community, he decided to use what he loves – science fair exhibiting – to promote T2D prevention. For five years, Alex exhibited regularly at health fairs and events throughout Austin. In eleventh grade, he approached the Austin Independent School District (AISD) with his idea to bring HTS into elementary school classrooms. AISD embraced his plan and professors at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin offered to review Alex’s curriculum. Two years later, HTS has allowed hundreds of elementary school students to enter science fairs for the first time and to serve as a source of health information for their families. Alex also organizes STEM and medical lectures open to all Austin area students, with support from a National Science Foundation grant for Teen Science Cafes. “My work has inspired me to aim higher and to become a medical doctor,” says Alex. “I want to advocate for less privileged groups and help create a healthier, more harmonious world.”
Creator, Bridge Tutoring Program
Armando created the Bridge Tutoring Program in Chicago to provide students in under-resourced communities with free, weekly, after-school tutoring and mentorship. His non-profit matches elementary students with high-achieving high school-age tutors. During the 2017-2018 school year, his program paired 100 tutors from five high schools with over 300 students at four elementary schools in the same neighborhoods. Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Armando believes the high levels of crime, gang violence, and poverty that oftentimes characterize his Back of the Yards neighborhood stem from a lack of academic support and scarcity of role models. His tutoring program addresses both issues.
As a child, Armando struggled to excel academically, but his older sisters served as the role models and tutors he needed to thrive both in and out of school. With that support and through sheer hard work, he entered high school at the top of his class just as many of his friends were dropping out to pursue gang life as a source of income. Though painful to watch, this spurred Armando to action. He began tutoring and informally mentoring children during his freshman year of high school at schools in and around his neighborhood. Three years later, he had the idea to find more tutors to help more kids. After months of organizational work, he and 16 of his high school peers returned to their old elementary school, eager to work with 20 young students. “Helping people receive opportunities I didn’t have has been one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable,” says Armando. “I want to continue supporting people in underresourced communities as I transition to college and beyond.”
BriaLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Founder, Faces of the Endangered
Bria founded Faces of the Endangered to protect endangered species through the sale of her artwork. She has sold over 250 paintings of endangered animals to people around the world and has donated more than $33,000 to animal conservation groups. Beneficiaries include the Jane Goodall Institute, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and the Wolf Conservation Center in New York state. A member of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program, Bria has also published two educational coloring books, including one for the Great Plains Zoo near her home; proceeds help fund the care of the zoo’s endangered species. She uses her website and Facebook page to highlight the challenges facing endangered animals, inspiring followers in 48 countries.
Bria began her work as an 8-year-old, when she won an art contest sponsored by IFAW. She was shocked to learn there are over 3,000 endangered species and decided to combine her passion for painting with her love of animals to showcase species in danger of extinction. She carefully researches each animal before painting it in an effort to convey the specific conservation challenges it faces. She has sold and shipped paintings to nearly every U.S. state and as far as Australia, Germany, and Hong Kong. “I hope my paintings can give endangered animals a face so they don’t disappear,” says Bria. “And I hope I can inspire kids like me to believe they can do great things.”
ClaireLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Creator, Solar Makes Sense
Age at Winning Prize
Claire created and led the Solar Makes Sense initiative in her hometown and raised the $118,000 needed to install solar panels on her middle school. The panels launched June 2018. She has galvanized her community and school district, sparking a movement and inspiring them to embrace renewable energy and commit to green building. Surplus money from her fundraising efforts along with a matching grant from the local energy company will soon fund the installation of another solar panel system at another local school.
Claire hatched her solar idea as she walked into middle school almost three years ago, noting an especially blue sky above her and, for the first time, the school building’s flat roof. She knew that her school was preparing for a major remodel and decided to make her case that it include solar. Though her school principal was supportive, contractors and architects offered that solar panels would add $150,000 to renovation costs, and school officials thanked Claire politely before dismissing her idea. Frustrated but undeterred, she spoke at the next School Board meeting and told them she intended to raise the money herself. Several weeks later, she was surprised and thrilled to learn of the School Board’s offer of $10,000 as seed money. Claire sprung into action and formed a student steering committee that fundraised tirelessly, organizing fundraisers, soliciting local businesses, collecting donations, and applying for and receiving grants. Claire even trick-or-treated as a solar panel, asking for contributions instead of candy. “I managed to create something bigger than myself,” says Claire. “I’ve generated a lasting impact on my community and have learned that everyone can achieve their hopes and dreams.”
Claire and MercedesLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Co-Founders, Baltimore Beyond Plastic
Ages at Winning Prize
Claire and Mercedes co-founded Baltimore Beyond Plastic (BBP) in 2016 to reduce trash and plastic pollution in their city on the Chesapeake Bay. Since then, their non-profit of more than 500 students, many of them young people of color, has convinced the Baltimore City Council to pass a citywide ban on Styrofoam food containers. They’ve also convinced Baltimore City Public Schools to switch to compostable lunch trays. Claire and Mercedes began their work after learning that Baltimore incinerates most of its trash, including plastics, releasing toxic chemicals into the air. They were also tired of seeing their school’s Styrofoam lunch trays floating in the waters of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The girls decided to take action.
They quickly connected with a state legislator preparing to introduce a statewide Styrofoam ban and jumped at the chance to support the bill. Recruiting 40 other students, they created a website for BBP and began connecting with local environmental non-profits. Despite their work, the statewide bill failed to pass. The girls regrouped and decided to tackle Styrofoam on a local level. After a nearly six-month-long campaign for a Baltimore Styrofoam ban, during which BBP brought over 200 students and teachers to City Hall to testify in support of the bill, it passed unanimously and was signed into law by the mayor. Claire and Mercedes are currently training younger student activists to continue the work of BBP. “Our work has empowered other students to take a stand against environmental injustice in their communities – to make their voices heard,” says Mercedes. Claire adds, “I didn’t know before BBP what was possible when youth banded together to raise their voices.”
GenevieveLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Creator, Milkweed for Monarchs
Genevieve created Milkweed for Monarchs to help protect Western Migratory Monarch butterflies and to raise awareness that they are threatened by extinction. A member of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program, Genevieve focuses on the planting and nurturing of milkweed plants — monarchs’ sole food source during their caterpillar phase. She grew up in San Luis Obispo, California, which provides a critical migratory route and dozens of overwintering sites for monarchs. Passionate about protecting the butterflies, Genevieve convinced the mayor to involve the city in monarch conservation. As part of that, she recently planted native milkweed in demonstration gardens throughout her hometown.
Genevieve began her work in third grade by starting native milkweed plants from seed – not easy, given the difficulty in germinating the seeds. Successful in her efforts, she turned her backyard into a certified pollinator garden and helped her science teacher do the same with the elementary school’s garden. Known as “The Butterfly Girl,” Genevieve continues to conduct research as a citizen scientist for Monarch Alert, a program of Cal Poly University. She has logged more than 500 hours by collecting data such as wing length and helping tag monarchs. She recently relocated to Western Quebec, where she is establishing a plan to help with Eastern Migratory Monarch butterfly conservation. “Butterflies only come out of their chrysalis and fly away when the temperature is just right,” says Genevieve. “I think people make a difference in the same way. When it matters most and the situation is just right, people rise to the occasion and take action.”
Harry and Heath
Co-Founders, Bennett Brothers Balm
Ages at Winning Prize
13 and 9
Harry and Heath co-founded Bennett Brothers Balm in 2016 after learning of their friend’s cancer diagnosis at age 11. The brothers make and sell an all-natural line of balms and have raised more than $12,000 to support pediatric cancer research. Committed to helping their friend Timmy following his diagnosis, the boys discovered that cancer patients’ lips and skin can dry out from chemotherapy treatments, so they decided to make and sell lip balm. They researched recipes, experimented in the kitchen, and after a number of botched batches, landed on a winning formula that included strawberry and vanilla, Timmy’s favorite scents.
Since then, Harry and Heath have expanded their line to include Body Butter, Tummy Troubles Belly Balm, and Bette’s Blissful Eye Balm, named after a family member fighting cancer. They sell their balms door-to-door, online, and at craft fairs, and donate the proceeds – more than $6,000 so far — to Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where Timmy was treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The boys have fundraised to donate an additional $6,000 to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. They have recently begun partnering with other non-profits committed to raising funds and awareness for childhood cancer. “I would tell other young people to never let your age stop you from dreaming big and going for it,” says Harry. “Every act of kindness, no matter how small, can truly change the world.” Heath adds, “I love our business and I love helping people whenever I can!”
Founder, San Diego Chill
Isaiah founded the San Diego Chill, a non-profit that teaches children with developmental disabilities how to skate and play ice hockey. His program pairs children with disabilities such as Down Syndrome and Autism one-on-one with volunteer teen coaches from competitive hockey teams. Since starting “The Chill” five years ago, Isaiah has written grants and solicited donations to raise more than $130,000 in order to offer his program and all equipment free of charge. Each Sunday during the school year, up to 40 players ages 7 to 13 and their mentor coaches take to the ice to learn skills and life lessons.
Isaiah began his work as a 13-year-old, when he met a young hockey fan with Down Syndrome whose mother couldn’t find a team that would take “a kid like him.” Determined to change that, Isaiah furiously researched special needs athletic programs and then nervously approached the local rink owner with his idea to pilot a special needs ice hockey team. Buoyed by the owner’s enthusiasm and offer of free ice time for the program’s first year, Isaiah wrote every law firm in San Diego to find pro bono help in establishing his non-profit. In the years since then, The Chill has impacted hundreds of children and their families, who speak of the program as life-changing. “I’m constantly humbled by the players, who consistently demonstrate that they are more than what society has labeled them,” says Isaiah. He adds, “The Chill has given me the courage to take on challenges and risk failure, because no idea is too crazy if I have the passion for it.”
Founder, Make a Difference Food Pantry
Kenzie founded the non-profit Make a Difference Food Pantry to provide nutritious food in a compassionate setting for those in need. Since opening her doors three years ago, she has served over 400,000 people, distributed more than 600,000 pounds of food, and provided over 50,000 hot meals. Her programs include weekly meal distributions, mobile meals to Seniors, summer and weekend food programs for children, exercise and cooking classes, and a clothes closet and children’s library at her food pantry. Kenzie has secured sponsorships and large-scale food donations from corporations such as General Mills and Tyson Foods. She has also partnered with the American Red Cross to serve as an emergency food distribution site during natural disasters such as Hurricane Matthew.
Kenzie’s inspiration grew out of research for a 4-H speech, when she learned that one in three children and more than 50% of all U.S. households live daily with food insecurity. Though she knew of other food pantries, she envisioned a place of compassion with a grocery store environment where people could shop with dignity. As a 10-year-old with a dream, she began by serving food to 20 families in her church’s basement. Today, she rents two buildings and serves 7,000 people each month from her main pantry and seven outreach sites. “I’ve learned to never give up on your passion and to work hard, with love,” says Kenzie. “I live every day to help others and make the world a better place.”
MarcusLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Inventor, NOGOS Water Filter
Age at Winning Prize
Marcus has invented a water filter for use in developing countries that costs just $2.00 to manufacture and is made from everyday materials. His filter, called NOGOS, uses just sugar, sand, and seashells to completely remove contaminants, including bacteria, from dirty water. His invention earned him first place at the Canada-Wide Science Fair and a berth on Team Canada at the INTEL Science Competition. He will soon begin field testing his filter and refining the design for mass production.
Marcus began his work at age 12, moved by a photo of an African girl drinking filthy water. He decided to use his love of science and technology to build a simple, inexpensive filter and began exhaustive research. After consulting with experts around the world and much trial and error, he successfully created a graphene composite made of just sugar and sand that drastically improved water filtration. Searching for another substance he could add, Marcus stumbled across a material called chitosan which is easily extracted from seashells and therefore available in much of the world. He heated the chitosan and his sand/sugar graphene composite in a pressure cooker, commonly used for cooking in developing countries. After more failed tests and fine-tuning, Marcus finally arrived at an effective and low-cost filter. “I want to motivate other teenagers to pursue sustainable technology to benefit our planet,” says Marcus. “I believe in inspiring young people to develop solutions to the problems they see around them.”
RobbieLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Creator, Kids Speak for Parks
Robbie created his non-profit Kids Speak for Parks to ensure that our national parks and monuments remain protected long into the future. He is working to build an army of activists, including fourth-grade students (who can visit our national parks free of charge), who will stand up and speak up for the parks. He began his campaign in April 2017 as a fourth-grader, in response to President Trump’s executive order to review and possibly eliminate 27 of our national monuments. Excitedly preparing to embark with his family on a cross country tour of the parks, Robbie decided to use the trip as a chance to share his message for President Trump’s administration: “Hands off our parks and monuments! They aren’t for sale!”
For the past year, he has spoken to students in schools across the country as he and his family have visited 18 national parks and monuments. He has shared the amazing experiences he’s had as a way to communicate why our parks need protecting. Robbie has also created a website and videos, made speeches, and joined forces with other people and non-profits across the U.S. working to protect the parks. In order to reach more students, he is developing a sophisticated digital platform that will use streaming and recorded material to inspire kids via a virtual visit to our parks. He is also collaborating with Ocean Heroes, Litterati, and Klean Kanteen to launch a campaign to reduce single use plastic in our national parks and monuments. “I’ve been caring for the environment for much of my life and I believe that my voice, and those of all children, deserves to be heard,” says Robbie.
Robby and Emma
Co-Founders, Eimers Foundation
Robby and Emma have been helping the homeless and hungry in Detroit every weekend for the past six years through the Eimers Foundation, the non-profit they co-founded to help people in need. Every Saturday, the siblings serve 200 hot meals and distribute hygiene kits, blankets, and shoes – along with emotional support — to people living on the street. They have raised more than $80,000 to fund their weekly Sharings for the homeless, whom they call their Friends, and have inspired hundreds of other volunteers to help them “Fight Hunger in the D.”
Robby first realized the extent of homelessness at age 9 while helping distribute blankets at a Detroit shelter. That same day, he emptied his piggybank and bought hats and socks for the people he’d met. Since then, he and Emma have helped several formerly homeless people secure their own apartments and have paid off the mortgages for three families facing foreclosure. They have also granted a $1,000 college scholarship each year to a homeless high school senior in honor of their dad, who passed away several years ago. Emma, an animal lover, has added Furry Friends to the mix, providing food for homeless people’s pets. Robby has lobbied state and U.S. Senators to address the crisis of homelessness. Until they do, he is saving to buy a food truck in order to serve more meals. “I’ve learned that I’m capable of doing things I never thought were possible,” says Robby. Emma adds, “I’ve realized you really can follow your passion while helping others.”
ShelbyLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Founder, Jr Ocean Guardians
Shelby founded Jr Ocean Guardians, a non-profit that educates young children about plastic pollution and the ways they can protect our oceans and planet. She created an activity book for elementary students, including a Spanish edition, that she has distributed in classrooms to more than 1,000 children. She also created the #NoStrawNovember movement, requesting and receiving a statewide No Straw November Resolution from the California Coastal Commission. Her No Straw November movement has garnered more than 10,000 straw-free pledges on her social media sites from people in over 20 countries. Shelby is currently working on straw-free legislation, teaming with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and testifying at the California State Capitol in support of a bill to eliminate plastic straws statewide.
A longtime Girl Scout, Shelby formed Jr Ocean Guardians as a way to earn her Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouts. No Straw November gained a worldwide following within the Girl Scout community in 2017 with a special edition No Straw November patch. Fifty cents per patch – more than $2,000 total – was donated to Girl Scouts in Houston impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Shelby has also approached corporations including Alaska Airlines, Starbucks, and Costco, asking that they consider replacing their single-use plastic straws and stir sticks with more sustainable options. Already, Alaska Airlines has eliminated over 22 million plastic stir straws and citrus picks per year. “The ocean runs through my veins,” says Shelby. “When my work to protect it gets rough, I just continue to fight for something much bigger than myself.”
ShreyaLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Founder, The Grey Water Project
Shreya founded The Grey Water Project, a non-profit that promotes the safe reuse of grey water and water conservation as a way to address drought. She works tirelessly to educate others about grey water – the gently used water from household sinks, showers, and laundry – and to remove the stigma that it is unclean and unusable. She has learned the California Plumbing Code and conducts seminars to show others how easy it is to build “laundry to lawn” grey water systems using organic detergents such as soap nuts. Soap nuts are a natural berry shell that release soap when placed in water. They are cost effective as a laundry detergent and are readily available around the world.
Shreya began her work with painstaking research on the environmental safety of soap nut grey water, concluding after three years that it doesn’t harm soil, plants, or aquatic life. She is now collaborating with several California water agencies to promote grey water reuse. She has earned numerous awards for her work, including the President’s Environmental Youth Award, and was invited to partner with the United Nations’ Global Wastewater Initiative. She is currently developing a grey water curriculum for elementary students to teach water conservation and the idea that small actions can make a huge difference. “I’ve learned that even though I am young, I can make a positive impact in my community,” says Shreya. “If I want to change something, I have to go out and make that difference instead of waiting for someone to do it for me.”
Founder, Pawsitive Pawsibilities
Tabitha founded Pawsitive Pawsibilities, a non-profit that provides service dogs free of charge to people with physical disabilities. In the past five years, she has raised more than $130,000 to place nine dogs that are helping children and adults conquer the challenges of paralysis, Cerebral Palsy, and PTSD. Tabitha fundraises by organizing events such as her annual Super Paw 5K race and a springtime community concert. She has also created Puppy Paws to support young children interested in fundraising for her cause, providing them with high school-age mentors, t-shirts, and a backpack full of supplies.
Tabitha knows firsthand how service dogs can change lives. Diagnosed in fourth grade with a debilitating form of Muscular Dystrophy, she endured six surgeries yet still found herself struggling to physically navigate her middle school campus. She reluctantly began studying at home; a wheelchair seemed the next best option. All of that changed when her parents purchased Sunny, a German Shepherd and trained service dog. Tabitha was able to walk confidently into 8th grade holding tightly to Sunny’s harness. She resolved to help others gain their mobility and placed her first service dog with Mary, a 14-year-old who began walking without her arm braces and mother’s support, thanks to her golden retriever. “As I’ve faced the disabilities in my own life, I’ve discovered my ability to organize and motivate others,” says Tabitha. “I’ve learned the joy of offering hope and that as I reach out to help individuals, our strength is multiplied.”
AngusLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Sustainable Beekeeping Practices
Age 17, New York
Angus is working to solve the problem of rapidly declining bee populations in colonies. He has developed a sustainable method adopted by more than 300 farms in New York and Massachusetts that involves the planting of specific local flowers, along with techniques to reduce the pathogen and bacterial loads in bee colonies. With funding from multiple grants, Angus and a group of high schoolers spent countless hours researching the medicinal effects of various flower pollen on bumblebees. They found that certain fatty acids in sunflower pollen can help increase bumblebees’ immunity and reduce pathogen loads almost entirely from infected bee colonies. Angus has developed a mixture of various pollens that is as effective as sunflower’s, but cheaper. It is being used to feed and protect bees in multiple colonies. He has also inventoried bee populations, interviewed numerous beekeepers and farmers, and coauthored a scientific paper about his method that is currently in review. “My parents provided me with the ability to appreciate the beauty of the world around me,” says Angus. “I love using science, with all its uncertainty, to help protect that beauty.”
GitanjaliLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Invented Test for Lead in Water
Age 12, Colorado
Gitanjali has invented an easy-to-use and inexpensive device to detect lead contamination in water, which can cause neurological damage in children and adults. She began her work following the 2014 Flint, Michigan water crisis, where high levels of lead were found in the drinking water. Determined to make lead detection easier, she dove into online research and learned of work using nanotechnology to detect harmful chemicals in the air. She decided to try applying the approach to lead detection. After several failed attempts to dope, or introduce, certain ions into carbon nanotubes (a commercial process), she connected with a manufacturer who was able to develop the nanotubes she needed. From there, she successfully designed her device, for which she was named the Discovery 3M Young Scientist of the Year and the grand prize winner of the worldwide Paradigm Challenge. She is currently working with Denver Water to test her device on a larger scale. “I’m determined to develop my invention into a product that can be made accessible to everybody who needs it,” says Gitanjali. “I’m convinced it can have a significant impact on the world.”
Haile founded the non-profit HAPPY Organization (Happy Active Positive Powerful Youth) to help young people live healthy lives. She has provided plant-based nutrition and culinary programs to more than 15,000 children, most of them in at-risk communities. She has created hands-on programs such as Sugar Shockers, where students learn to read food labels and create healthy alternatives to sugary drinks. Her HAPPY Kit, an 18-week school program, includes games, plant-based recipes, and live cooking demos. Each year, her free, weeklong summer cooking camp fills to capacity months in advance. Haile began her work at age 8, after her family successfully reversed her dad’s Type 2 Diabetes through nutrition and exercise. She decided to share that success and the power of healthy food with others. “Seeing the amount of love, kindness, and support in communities that should be the most pessimistic has inspired me,” says Haile. “I focus on that instead of the negative things in the world, and just want to do all I can to make others’ lives healthier and happier.”
JoeyLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Founder, Geaux Green
Age 12, Louisiana
Joey founded Geaux Green, an environmental campaign that encourages everyone to take care of the Earth. He has convinced hundreds of people to join his cause and take his pledge to “pick up litter, recycle, plant trees and flowers, conserve water and electricity, and make the Earth a better place to live.” He began his work as a 7-year-old when he adopted the garden at his former elementary school, asking local businesses to donate gardening tools and rallying volunteers to plant flowers. He also arranged to have recycling containers placed at the school and nearby park. Since then, Joey has won the support of his City Council, school board, and state senators, among others. Each Earth Day, he organizes Geaux Green Day, inspiring community members to pick-up litter, plant trees, and take his pledge. He is currently working to launch a Geaux Green Club at his middle school. “I’m trying to get people to realize that age doesn’t matter,” says Joey. “You can be 9 or 90 and make a difference by helping the Earth.”
Khloe founded Khloe Kares to help homeless women and in the past three years, has sewn and distributed more than 1,600 sturdy tote bags filled with toiletries and other daily essentials. She began her work as an 8-year-old after passing the same homeless people on her walk to school each day. With her great-grandmother’s help, she started sewing tote bags and appealing to friends and family for donations of toiletries, washcloths, and socks to fill them. Since then, she has convinced sponsors including Dove soap and Zappos to join her cause. She has also invited groups such as Girl Scouts to help fill bags. Every six weeks, Khloe distributes bags in her own town and in downtown Los Angeles, hugging and talking with women in dire need of support and connection. “It’s important to encourage kids to step out and make their dreams come true,” says Khloe. “If you’re passionate about what you are doing and you put a plan together, you can accomplish anything.”
Max co-founded Catching Joy to promote volunteerism and acts of kindness, especially among young people. He organizes hands-on community service projects that allow youth to experience the joy of giving. In the last ten years, Catching Joy has mobilized over 60,000 youth and adults to make a difference and has supported more than sixty non-profits. The group has led food, clothing, and book drives, participated in charity walks, and collected thousands of new toys for underserved children during the December holidays. Max began his service work at age 5 by holding a lemonade stand to raise money for people in need. Since then, he has organized events such as the Big Blanket Hug, inspiring youth to make 2,000 no-sew blankets for people living on the street or in shelters. Through Operation Sock Drop, his group has donated more than 2,500 pairs of socks to the homeless. “Once I felt the joy of giving, I wanted to do more,” says Max. “And I wanted to share it with others.”
Meagan founded her non-profit Books for Bedtime “to give as many books as possible to as many children as possible in as many places as possible.” She began her work as an 11-year-old with the goal of collecting and distributing 500 books. Three years later, she has donated over 77,000 books to children at schools, homeless shelters, and food pantries. An avid reader, it struck her one day that she could collect books and donate them to kids who didn’t have many. Her first book drive yielded boxes and boxes of books left on her doorstep. She regularly hosts sorting parties where friends and volunteers help her haul books from the basement and organize them by grade level into crates. Meagan hand-delivers all of her donations and talks with recipients about the importance of reading. She also recently created a step-by-step guide for students and teachers on how to become a changemaker. “Books for Bedtime has taught me how kind people can be,” says Meagan. “Seeing everyone helping me help others has changed my outlook on the world.”
OliviaLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Inventor, Green Highway Project
Age 17, Massachusetts
Olivia has invented a renewable energy technology has invented a renewable energy technology that captures kinetic and thermal energy from highways and converts it to electrical energy. She has received a provisional patent for her invention, dubbed the Green Highway Project, as well as awards from groups such as MIT THINK. A member of the Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council, Olivia helps lead service campaigns and travels the country spreading Dr. Jane’s message that “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” A passionate artist, Olivia recently illustrated an ebook for JGI on community service, and paints watercolor portraits of kids who are fighting cancer. Her other humanitarian initiatives include food and clothing drives in nearby Boston, and regular mission trips to Haiti. “Find what you’re good at. Find what you’re passionate about. And put your skills and talents to work to make a difference,” says Olivia.
Reagan founded the Buckets of Love Foundation to provide games, crafts, and puzzles to young children facing a medical challenge or some other hardship. Since launching her non-profit in June 2017, she has created 518 buckets for children across Delaware and an additional 892 across the country. Each bucket includes a handwritten note of support. She has raised nearly $7,5000 to fund her work by soliciting donations, holding bake sales, and organizing toy drives. Reagan has a long history of helping others. Since age four, she has hosted a summertime lemonade stand, raising more than $6,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. As a second-grader, she started a knitting club at her school, working with classmates to create more than 1,200 hats for people fighting cancer. Eager for a new way to help, she landed on the idea of Buckets of Love and recruited her 6-year-old sister, Payton, to join her. “We’ve learned that when small acts of kindness get multiplied, they become big acts of kindness,” says Reagan. “And kindness can change the world.”
RyanLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Creator, Ryan’s Recycling Company
Age 8, California
Ryan created Ryan’s Recycling Company to keep cans, plastic bottles, and glass from polluting our environment. He is most passionate about protecting ocean animals from harm caused by trash. He has personally kept 76,000 pounds of pollution out of the ocean and our landfills. Ryan began his work as a 3-year-old, asking neighbors for their bottles and cans. Today, he coordinates pick-ups of recyclables from homes and businesses throughout Orange County and with his family’s help, delivers them by the truckload to the local redemption center every few weeks. Ryan’s redemption dollars are earmarked for college, though he’ll tell you he is saving for a large trash truck. He has also created and sells company t-shirts, donating all proceeds — $8,000 so far – to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a non-profit that rescues and rehabilitates seals and sea lions. “I’ve learned that recycling is so important and that one person can truly make a difference,” says Ryan. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and I hope everyone joins me.”
The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America. Each year, the Barron Prize honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people and the environment.