Congratulations to the 2014 Build-A-Bear Workshop® Huggable Heroes®!
We salute all the young people who are making our world a better place through their generosity and kindness. These young people have devoted countless hours to raising funds and awareness for so many important causes. Each of these young social entrepreneurs will receive a $5,000 scholarship and a $2,500 donation to a charity of their choice from Build-A-Bear Workshop. We hope you find inspiration in their stories. Read below to learn more about our 2014 Huggable Hero winners!
ZACHARY A., 14, SEWICKLEY PA
Zachary is a former Make-A-Wish recipient who created Make A Move for Make-A-Wish – a bike, walk and run event to support wish kids in his community. Now cancer free, Zack organized the Make-A-Wish fundraiser to give back to the organization that granted his wish for a T-Rex Dinosaur statue for his backyard when he was ill. To date, Zack has raised more than $65,000 for Make-A-Wish and helped grant 16 wishes for children battling cancer. Zack remains dedicated to raising additional funds to grant more wishes in the hopes of bringing joy to Make-A-Wish children.
MICHAEL B., 16, SNOHOMISH WA
Michael started an organization called Hugs for Ghana, mobilizing students in his community through the donation of time, funds and goods. In both 2013 and 2014, he organized two Ghanaian culture night fundraisers in his community and collected more than $12,000. Additionally, Michael partners with a range of organizations such as the YMCA and dozens of schools in the community to organize donation drives. In 2013 his sports-focused drive collected more than $20,000 worth of sports gear, and his 2014 book drive resulted in nearly 4,000 donations, all to benefit Ghanaian youth.
DANIELLA C., 16, HIGHLAND PARK, IL
Daniella founded GIVE, a letter writing exchange, to promote cultural understanding and education. GIVE pen pals learn to empathize and interact with a different culture that they otherwise would not have been exposed to. GIVE has sent thousands of letters and flip-flops, signed with messages of hope, from schools across the U.S. to schools in India, Uganda, Rwanda, Israel and Iraq. Daniella has also spearheaded an effort to provide internet service and laptops to students in Uganda.
SARAH G., 16, PORTLAND, OR
Sarah's passion for learning led her to motivate adolescent girls in her community to come together to raise funds and awareness for teenage girls around the world. Sarah brought the United Nations Foundation's Girl Up campaign of the United Nations to Oregon, which gives American girls the opportunity to support for UN programs that help some of the world's hardest-to-reach adolescent girls. The Oregon chapter Girl Up started by Sarah has involved over 200 students around Portland, volunteering in six chapters.
IZZI H., 16, BRIGHTON, UK
Diagnosed with Type I diabetes at age 10, Izzi became eager to share her experiences to help others. In addition to supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) through fundraising, Izzi has become an advocate in supporting other youngsters with Type I diabetes in the Houses of Parliament Additionally, Izzi has collaborated with local Council officials and representatives from the National Health Service to put in place relevant and proper support for T1 young people in school, including mentors where appropriate.
KYLIE K., 17, Mifflinburg, PA
After losing her sister to leukemia in 2005, Kylie wanted to help other children and families diagnosed with cancer. She founded Kelsey's Dream, and recently developed and introduced Hopper the Cancer Crusher, a fluffy green frog play therapy toy for children undergoing cancer treatment. To date, the play therapy toy has been delivered to 24 hospitals throughout the nation, with a goal of distributing Hopper the Cancer Crusher to all pediatric oncology hospitals across the U.S. Kelsey's Dream has mobilized 400 volunteers, raised approximately $265,000, and produced 8,000 therapy play toys to date.
RACHEL L. 17, STEVENS POINT, WI
Rachel started Literacy for Little Ones, an early literacy program that encourages parents to read to their infants and provides book packages to newborns' families. What began at Rachel's local community hospital in 2009 has expanded to four additional hospitals in Wisconsin, one hospital in Minnesota, and one hospital in Nicaragua, impacting approximately 520 infants per month. Thus far, Literacy for Little Ones has distributed book packages to 7,400 families, and has over 700 volunteers.
BRODIE M., 13, WALSALL, UK
Brodie and family launched Livvy's Smile, a charitable endeavor in memory of Brodie's sister Livvy. Livvy's Smile's mission is to create memory making days for children with disabilities, together with their families. From her own contributions ranging from making cakes to licking envelopes and everything in between, Brodie's dedication to families with disabled children, and to Livvy's Smile, never diminishes. In addition to her own time and effort, Brodie also inspires friends to fundraise and challenges them to support children with disabilities.
CASEY S., 16, WINTERVILLE, NC
Casey inspires at-risk students to get involved, raise awareness and learn the plight of the world's sea turtle population through STEM-focused (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) environmental camps. She also hosts a year-round community calendar of learning and service activities. Over the last three summers, the camps have provided 340 at-risk youth opportunities to participate in STEM-focused, nature activities. In total, Casey's Efforts have raised more than $350,000 to help fund these camps and calendar of activities.
ALEXIS W., 18, PITTSBURGH, PA
When Alexis' father returned home from his final overseas tour, he was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), an immensely difficult and far too common post-war affliction. Alexis created an organization called “Seeds of Hope,” which provides relief for veterans and their families affected by PTSD. Seeds of Hope has planted 15 self-sustaining gardens nationwide, to provide veterans and their families access to fresh and healthy produce. She has also created a children's book about veteran appreciation, as well as a documentary that describes the psychological effects of war.
Since 2004, Build-A-Bear Workshop has rewarded more than 100 young volunteers from around the world who have collectively raised $10 million and gathered 300 million items for their causes. To date, more than 12,000 kids have been nominated for the Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes program.
The 2014 Huggable Heroes contest was open to children ages eight to 18 in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Build-A-Bear Workshop received more than 500 nominations, which were narrowed down to 48 finalists in July. A panel of independent judges then selected the 10 Heroes.