On Monday, July 17th – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – USA Today launched the ‘Kindness Challenge’ on The Rachel Ray Show (click on links below for more info). With so many negative and horrific reports in the news, positive news stories are sometimes overlooked; it is wonderful to see those who choose to make a difference to better the world in which they live. The young people below are great role models for not only their peers, but for us all.
All Kindness Challenge participants are alums of teen non-profit DoSomething.org, one of the largest organizations in the U.S. that helps young people rock causes they care about.
NOTE: If there is a young person in your life, encourage them to get involved in their community by joining http://www.dosomething.org/
Meet the five Kindness Challenge participants!
State: Mifflinburg, PA
Project: Kelsey’s Dream
Background: After her sister passed away from cancer, Kylie was inspired to help other children and their families battling with the disease. She started Kelsey’s Dream Foundation that donates Chemo Ducks, a cuddly toy and education program designed by the non-profit Gabe’s My Heart, to children’s hospitals across the country.
“Kindness Challenge” Goal: I would like to provide a Chemo Duck to as many children diagnosed with cancer, as possible. We started with Pennsylvania, and accomplished that goal. Then I decided that the Chemo Duck is so cute that every child with cancer, on the East Coast, must have one. Two years later, only Florida remains. This will require about $17,250.00 to supply Chemo Ducks to the Pediatrics/Oncology units in Florida.
What inspires me to give back: I chose to create this foundation because my sister and I were directly affected by cancer. My older sister, Kelsey, was diagnosed with Leukemia one month before her fifth birthday. Kelsey later went into remission. After 2 ½ years in remission, the cancer returned. The doctors suggested a Bone Marrow Transplant. I was excited when I found out that I was a perfect antigen match and willingly became my sister’s Bone Marrow Donor. After a two-year fight, Kelsey later passed away as a result of the disease. Because of the impact of this experience, I wanted to help other children, and their families, who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Kelsey was a very kind, giving person, who touched many people’s lives. Hopefully, I can help bring smiles or some happiness to the children that go through what I had seen my sister struggle through for eight years. She always smiled no matter how sick she was, and always cared about others. I hope I can bring smiles to the children because I know she would want us to do that.
Lizzie Marie Likness
State: Atlanta, GA
Project: Lizzie Marie Cuisine
Background: In efforts to combat obesity in her community, Lizzie opened Lizzie Marie Cuisine — a culinary business baking and selling all-natural goodies at her local farmer’s market, and created a website to teach people how to cook healthy food.
“Kindness Challenge” goal: My goal for the Kindness Challenge is to finish my cookbook — “Tasty Tidbits: Educating Today for a Healthier Tomorrow” — in the six-week deadline. It has always been a goal of mine to have my own cookbook, and completing the cookbook will be a great experience. By creating my own cookbook, I will be able to teach many more people how easy it is to make delicious, simple and healthy meals. Creating a cookbook will help me not only impact my community, but impact families all over America.
What inspires me to give back: Giving back is very important to me since I have been given so many life-changing opportunities. I think giving back to my community by cooking healthy is the best way to use my talent. Whenever I hear someone say, “I can’t wait to make this at home!” it makes me feel like I’ve impacted their family in a great way. If I can change one family’s lifestyle for the better, I know I’m one step closer to changing America’s lifestyle for the better.
State: Wheaton, IL
Project: Woofin and Hoofin
Background: Adin began the Woofin’& Hoofin’ 5K race and Doggie Dash, consisting of a one mile jog for pet owners in and their dogs to raise awareness for animal cruelty in homes.
“Kindness Challenge” goal: Woofin & Hoofin hopes to produce our first annual Puppy Palooza, a fun musical competition featuring major high school bands. While building energy for our summer race events among the student population, we hope to bring the cause of animal welfare onto center stage. Coupled with increased sponsorship and proceeds from the sale of puppy chow, Puppy Palooza will help us meet our most ambitious fundraising goal ever for the DuPage County Animal Shelter this year.
What inspires me to give back: I give back for the vision of a world where Woofin & Hoofin isn’t needed. When I visit the DuPage County Animal Shelter, I see the eyes of a caged animal meeting those of a growing family, and I know that soon, that animal will find love in its life. While experiencing such small steps toward a better world for our furry friends, I feel gratified that teenagers can find the energy to bend a community toward a common cause. On race day, I have that rare feeling of participating in a completely positive movement.
Name: Allison Nguyen
Location: Houston, TX
Project: Iced Capades Cakery
Background: Allison donates cupcakes on a monthly basis to local homeless shelters to host birthday parties for whom they are otherwise unaffordable.
“Kindness Challenge” goal: Because many of the children in shelters have fallen on hard times, I would like to improve our birthday party experience to make the celebrations more memorable and fun. In a few years, I want them to look back on their birthdays with fondness. To do so, we need to increase our volunteer pool, donations, and funding.
What inspires me to give back: I am inspired by the look of pure joy on the faces of a children who receive our gift. Many shelters and parents don’t have the money or resources to provide a luxury like a birthday celebration for these shelter children. From my own experience, I know that my days as a kid revolved around the major milestones like my birthday. Every child deserves their own special day dedicated to them. I want to make sure that kids at shelters can get the recognition on their birthday that they deserve.
Name: Jason Shah
Location: Cambridge, MA
Background: Harvard student Jason Shah was inspired by a 15-year-old he tutored in West Philadelphia who couldn’t spell the word “ball.” How would this kid ever go to college? Jason could help him with school, but what about the SAT? So Jason started INeedaPencil.com, a free online tutoring system designed to help underprivileged youths prepare for the SAT. INeedaPencil.com has helped over 30,000 students increase their SAT scores, by an average of 200 points.
“Kindness Challenge” goal: With the big picture idea of helping as many students as possible, INeedAPencil.com is aiming to build out its network of partners by adding 50 new organizations during the Kindness Challenge to an existing network of 150 known partners. These partners enable INeedAPencil.com to scale by tapping into larger, persistent student bases and ensuring students have a structured environment in which to complete practice materials on INeedAPencil.com. Partners include schools, after-school programs, and community-based programs. We provide partners with an understanding of how the site works, counseling on how to manage students, and partner-specific tools to enable the partner to track student progress.
What inspires me to give back: I was raised by a family that taught me that education was the ultimate enabler. Knowledge is power. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I really witnessed students who did not have a fair shot access to quality education. It seemed unfathomable that what I had been taught was the ultimate enabler was not available to some people who had done nothing to deserve that. So I decided to do what I could to change that.