When posting various articles about our beautiful county, I frequently spin a phrase, “Frederick is a great place to live, work and play.” But its not just a phrase. Frederick is particularly full of nice people who are generous and interested in giving back to the community, by supporting non-profits, and by personal involvement. Here’s something really special :
Kids Are Heroes®, a local non-profit organization that promotes and encourages volunteerism and community involvement, was founded in 2008 by 9-year-old MaryMargaret O’Neill. No, that was not a type-o. While learning about endangered animals in her 5th grade Science class, MaryMargaret asked her dad, Gabe O’Neill, a software engineer, to create a website for her to help animals. Gabe had recently been inspired by reading about Sir Richard Branson and the concept of Social Entrepreneurship. He suggested that they didn’t have to stop with helping endangered animals, but could explore other opportunities to give as well. From this small beginning KidsAreHeroes.org grew into an non-profit organization that helps kids get involved with whatever they can dream to do, whether its building wells in Africa, or helping with local causes.
As MaryMargaret’s father expresses so well, supporting kids in their own passions is the best way to encourage community service and volunteerism. “We showcase what kids are doing to volunteer and make their world a better place, we don’t tell them what to do.” With over 240 children from 7 nations involved in community work, it’s easy to believe that a single person can really make a difference. And kids are especially capable because they haven’t yet learned the words, “I can’t.”
The beautiful thing about community service, says Gabe, “is the difference it makes in the child’s life. Just the experience of self-less giving creates higher self-esteem, confidence, leadership and more responsibility.” When a 7-9 year-old child gives an interview with NBC, or speaks at a convention in front of 500 people, it’s not hard to see the intrinsic benefits and life-long skills the experience brings. It’s very empowering. (not to mention the inspiration these kids are to adults).
How It Works
Parents nominate their child for the purpose of showcasing and recognizing them when they do outstanding things in the community. Their mascot Lily, the Bernese Mountain dog, showcases these “Heroes” on the website. The stories serve not only to encourage the heroes, but to inspire other kids who are looking for a way to give back.
The children get together throughout the year at various events to share their experiences, build friendships, and engage in their own fun brand of networking.
A Local Frederick Non-Profit Organization
Even though Kids Are Heroes® showcases kids making a difference all over the world, they are a local homegrown organization. Frederick is important to them. Especially for the Frederick community, their annual event, Kids Are Heroes Day, is held at Francis Scott Key Mall. This year’s KAHday, Saturday, October 29th, promises to be quite an event!
- As always, kids will be entertaining, singing, speaking and dancing their way into your heart.
- Special music from Musicians of Mercy will be a highlight. If you love classical music, Bach, Haydn and Mozart, you’ll enjoy this.
- The Oakdale Elementary School Chorus will be singing the Kids Are Heroes® theme song.
- You won’t want to miss Cupcake Wars with offerings from 3 local bakeries, a fundraiser for the cause.
- Meet the heroes one-on-one and be inspired by their stories.
- The event will be streaming live on their website for those who can’t make it and those far away.
- From 10 am to 4 pm.
The Future Looks Bright
Gabe has dreams for Kids Are Heroes® and sees that it has the potential to be as broad and deep as organizations like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. These kids will be leaders some day. Imagine a generation that grew up with the expectation that self-less service in their community was normal! Imagine their impact on their communities, their employers and co-workers, and their own businesses. Wow, I’m already inspired♥
There are several stages of growth ahead, all of which have expenses. The most immediate needs:
- Technical expertise and equipment, from videotaping, internet work, to promotion and publishing
- Sponsoring Kids for travel to events
- Events like Kids Are Heroes Day
Building a structure for Kids Are Heroes® to expand into the future is essential. As kids get too old for KAH, (the organization is for kids up to age 18) Gabe has visions for a mentoring program.
How Can I Help?
There are lots of ways to help:
- You can buy a brick on the Kids Are Heroes® “Wall of Fame” there are several levels of donations.
- There is also a Corporate Wall for donations
- You can give a tweet. KAH has had great success with Social Media
- Bloggers can spread the news 😀
- Be a Kids Are Heroes® Ambassador
- Start a Kids Are Heroes Outreach Program
- Spending some time on the website will give you lots of ideas!
Here’s to a new generation of Heroes! Karen