After months of evaluation, 10 young leaders from the United States and Canada have risen through the ranks to become the 2010 Huggable Heroes. Build-A-Bear Workshop received approximately 1,000 entries for its seventh annual search rewarding youth for their outstanding acts of generosity, volunteerism and leadership. Each Huggable Hero will receive $10,000 USD ($7,500 USD in the form of an educational scholarship and $2,500 USD from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation to be donated to the charity of the Huggable Hero’s choice).
This year’s class of Huggable Heroes, ranging in age from 8 to 18, is elevating the bar on giving. Collectively, these dedicated young people have raised funds and collected items valued at more than $22.5 million, and they volunteer more than 650 hours of their time each month. These numbers keep rising as they continue to support military troops, advocate for literacy, raise funds and awareness to help medical advances, help build and fund schools and orphanages in underdeveloped countries, inspire and mobilize other youth from all over the world to help make the world a better place and much more.
Alaina Podmorow, 13, Lake Country, Canada
Alaina founded Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan – an organization that raises funds to educate girls in Afghanistan. She has helped raise more than $137,000 through silent auctions, bottle drives, and other events. Alaina also speaks to schools and groups to raise awareness about Afghan issues. Her organization now has nine chapters.
Alison Mansfield, 14, Indiana, United States
Alison has gathered and shipped more than 44,000 items to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Alison has collected socks, toiletries, snacks, and toys for the soldiers to give to the Afghan children as gestures of goodwill. Most recently, she collaborated with the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and local artists to illustrate a coloring book for the Afghan children.
Ashlee Smith, 11, Nevada, United States
Ashlee created Ashlee’s Toy Closet – an organization that collects toys and books for kids in need in the United States, Canada and Haiti. She has donated more than 100,000 toys, books and stuffed animals and has launched a drive to help re-build orphanages in Haiti. Ashlee also supplies firehouses and ambulances in her community with stuffed animals to give to children in difficult situations.
Charles Rappazzo, 17, New York, United States
Charles started Literacy Education for All People, a multi-year initiative to help reduce illiteracy and increase literacy education and awareness on a local and global level. Through his initiative, he has distributed more than $6 million worth of educational supplies, both in the United States and abroad. In addition, Charles has raised $10,000 to start a library and computer center at the Girls Secondary School in Awkuzu, Nigeria.
Dylan Mahalingham, 14, New Hampshire, United States
Dylan co-founded Lil’ MDGs to help meet the UN Millennium Development Goals. He has rallied more than 20,000 youth volunteers from 40 countries to work together to raise more than $780,000 for tsunami relief. His mobilization efforts also have raised funds to build schools, dorms, libraries, playgrounds and community gardens in several countries such as Uganda, Indonesia, Cambodia, India and Sudan.
Jourdan Urbach, 18, New York, United States
Jourdan is founder and director of Children Helping Children (CHC), an organization that raises funds for cutting-edge research and the eradication of neurological diseases through a national benefit called, Concerts for a Cure. He has inspired 700 young, professional musicians to join him in performances and build satellite chapters of CHC. To date, CHC has raised more than $4.6 million that is being used for a variety of programs for pain management, Multiple Sclerosis and neurological diseases that effect children.
Matthew Armstrong, 18, Alberta, Canada
Matthew has raised more than $300,000 to help kids in need. His organization, Matthew’s Challenge, has raised money through letter-writing campaigns, selling handmade magnetic bookmarks, hosting galas, walk-a-thons and fundraisers.
Melissa Monette, 17, Hawaii, United States
Melissa is president of Kids Helping Kids with Diabetes – an organization that educates, raises funds for research and provides support services to people with Type I diabetes. She works with schools to sell thousands of plastic shoes for her Shoes in the Chute shoe race. Melissa has collected more than $121,000 in funds and grants which she has donated to the Hawaii Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. In addition, Melissa also manages A Harvest for Many Inc., a nonprofit that collects food for those in need. She has been able to collect more than 32,000 pounds of food for 295 local food programs.
Riley Carney, 16, Colorado, United States
Riley created Breaking the Chain – a nonprofit organization designed to break the chains of illiteracy and poverty through education, by building schools, creating literacy centers and providing books for classrooms around the world. She has raised money to build schools in Africa; one in Kenya and two in Sierra Leone. Domestically, she created a children’s literacy center at a battered women’s shelter and bought countless books for Read Out and Read and the Heart of American Foundation. Recently, Breaking the Chain launched Bookin’It, a program that works with schools to put books into under-served classrooms. So far, Riley has raised more than $90,000.
Tatiana Grossman, 15, California, United States
Tatiana works with the African Library Project to help increase early literacy in Africa. She has spoken before thousands of people on two continents about literacy and facilitating the creation of libraries. Tatiana has helped create 18 libraries in 27 African villages and schools, and has helped collect 20,000 books for these new libraries.
“These 10 young people prove that we can make a difference to help make this world a better place,” said Maxine Clark, Build-A-Bear Workshop founder and chief executive bear. “Their compassion not only changes the world but also inspires others to follow in their footsteps. They are our next generation of leaders.”
(Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc. (founded in St. Louis in 1997) is the only global company that offers an interactive make-your-own stuffed animal retail-entertainment experience. The company currently operates more than 400 Build-A-Bear Workshop stores worldwide, including company-owned stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland and France, and franchise stores in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, and Mexico.)