huggableHeroes

Build-A-Bear Workshop® is beary pleased to announce the 2014 Huggable Heroes® Finalists!

All of these young people are doing such amazing things in their communities, it was beary difficult for the judges to narrow down the nominations. But, after careful reading and much deliberation, our Finalists have been named. All of these young people are doing their part with heart to make this world a better place.

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.

BRITTANY A., 17, HAWAII

When Brittany was just eight years old, she started a non-profit, Hawaii's Future Isn't Hungry, which helps feed the hungry, and mentors and supports youth living in low income housing and homeless shelters. Brittany began by serving three meals a day at her local church, feeding 300 homeless people and helping out at local food banks. Brittany now has volunteers in 26 states, securing fresh produce to prepare meals for the homeless in their communities. Brittany is now in the process of expanding her organization to all 50 states, all designed to be youth-run.

ELIZA A., 16, NORCROSS, GA

Eliza has organized the Norcross Blue Devils Run for the past two years, a 5K and fun run to benefit her high school's track and field and cross country athletes. Through the race, Eliza has raised more than $20,000 to help athletes who could not afford race participation fees, shoes, spikes and socks. Eliza has also created a blog to educate runners on proper nutrition and injury prevention.

LINDSEY A., 12, SOMERSET, MA

Lindsey was deeply affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and moved by the volunteers and first responders rushing to help the victims. This inspired Lindsey to design and sell Boston Strong silicone wristbands, with 100 percent of the profits going to One Fund. Lindsey's creation has been seen on the wrists of professional athletes and numerous runners participating in the 2014 Boston Marathon. Since creating the Boston Strong wristbands, Lindsey has raised over $11,000 for the One Fund to assist victims and families affected by the Boston Marathon.

ABBY B., 11, ROWLETT, TX

Abby sprung into action after her sister, who has Asperger's, was bullied. This difficult family experience inspired that start of Abby's Pledge, an anti-bullying, child abuse and domestic violence initiative. Abby travels around the country speaking about the effects of bullying and provides her point of view on how to effectively stop it. Abby has also created her own Web site to provide an educational resource page for parents, kids and teens looking for anti-bully and abuse resources.

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 Ghanian youth.

MADELINE B., 13, MINDEN, LA

After spending time visiting nursing homes, Madeline discovered that many residents received less than three visits a year from family or friends. Madeline felt that everyone needs a friend and decided to share some of her stuffed animals. Upon seeing the immediate smiles of the nursing home residents, Madeline started Stuffed with Love, an organization that takes new and gently used stuffed animals and hand delivers them to residents of nursing homes, sick children in hospitals, and emergency first responders. Over 13,000 stuffed animals have been collected and delivered by over 150 volunteers in seven states since this project began.

CARSON B., 9, RAPID CITY, CANADA

Carson was born in 2005 with a heart problem requiring specialized care at the Children's Hospital in Winnipeg. After years of treatment and continuous monitoring, he launched Carson Has Heart, a community and online fundraising campaign to help sick children in Manitoba. Through Carson Has Heart, more than $41,000 has been raised for equipment to treat cardiology patients and to support the Child Life program in order to make hospital stays easier for children.

NATASHA BOYD, 12, PLYMOUTH, UK

Natasha is a main caretaker for her mother, who suffers from fibromyalgia. She helps by providing medical care and assisting with household duties. She also participates in online support groups to provide advice and support when needed to other families impacted by fibromyalgia.

BRACKEN BROWN, 16, PLYMOUTH, UK

After losing her father to cancer, Bracken was touched by the challenges faced by four-year old Henry Hallam and family. Henry was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, and Hugs for Henry was launched to help raise funding for the lifesaving treatment Henry he may need. Bracken has attended nearly all of the fundraisers for the appeal, and recently had most of her hair cut off by Henry after enlisting sponsors to donate money for Hugs for Henry. Through her fundraising efforts, she has inspired many people, particularly fellow pupils from her school, to also contribute to Hugs for Harry and other charities.

PHOEBE C., 9, SOUTH HAMPTON

Phoebe started a program to help support her local hospital's air ambulance. She hosts a weekly shoe collection with friends and neighbors to raise funds to support this effort. To date, Phoebe has collected nearly 2,000 pairs of shoes, allowing the helicopter to be flown more than 5,055 times.

DANIELA C., 16, HIGHLAND PARK, IL

Daniela 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. Danielle has also spearheaded an effort to provide internet service and laptops to students in Uganda.

JESSICA D., 18, WIGGINS MS

Inspired by her grandmother, who had never been to a prom, Jessica created an Annual Senior Citizen Prom in Wiggins, Mississippi, to promote exercise for seniors. Jessica wanted to do something worthwhile for children as well, and worked closely with the Stone High Key Club, collecting canned goods as an entrance fee. These canned goods are then distributed to the Daily Bread Food Pantry's Summer Stash in order to provide food for children during the hot summer months.

FAITH D., 11, LAKEFIELD, ON

Faith started Cuddles for Cancer after making a fleece blanket for an aunt battling the cancer. After seeing how comforting her hand-made blanket was to her aunt, Faith decided to begin making Cuddles for Cancer blankets free of charge for people around the world. Faith also makes signature blankets for Canadian soldiers returning home from Kuwait and Afghanistan. Recently honored as Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year, Faith has made nearly 800 blankets to date as part of Cuddles for Cancer.

GABRIELE E., 10, HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA

Gabriele started volunteering as a storyteller in local schools when he was seven to get children excited about reading. After realizing that some children did not own even one book, Gabriele hosted a birthday party and asked everyone to donate books in lieu of presents. Mission: Hero (Helping Everyone Read Out Loud) was born. Now 10, Gabriele continues to host parties and has collected thousands of books for disadvantaged children in his community and beyond, even helping to build libraries in Borja, Peru and Guatemala. Gabriele was youngest person honored in the book 100makingadifference.com, and was a speaker at a 2013 TEDx talk.

GREER G., 16, POULSBO, WA

Initially inspired by a family friend battling ovarian cancer, Greer began selling handmade jewelry and Christmas ornaments at age 7. Now 16, Greer has organized almost 300 volunteers, and sold more than $80,000 worth of handmade items to benefit cancer research. Greer's goal is to raise $100,000 by the time she graduates high school in 2015. Her contributions have helped the UWMC team identify 14 genetic links to ovarian cancer.

THOMAS G., 12, MANOTICK, ON

Tommy draws his inspiration from his sister's Melanie's rare disorder, Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS). In kindergarten, Tommy and his family published a book to teach his friends about CdLS. In first grade, Tommy gave a presentation to his school about accepting his sister's differences. Tommy's advocacy on behalf of Melanie and others born with CdLS has resulted in the distribution of almost 10,000 books about the disorder to schools. In addition, Tommy has shared his story with millions of people through presentations and media interviews throughout Canada and the U.S.

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.

ISABELLA G., 10, ALAMOSA, CO

Isabella Griffin was a target of bullying in third grade because she did not have the latest phone and people did not like the way she dressed. Isabella stood up for herself, and the bullying stopped. One year later, Isabella observed a student with disabilities being bullied. She stood up for him, became his friend and the bullying stopped. Seeing that her actions created reactions, Isabella started Be a Buddy – Not a Bully. Four schools have adopted her program which she hopes to expand nationally. Through the program, Isabella speaks about how to stop bullying, ask students to take a pledge, and hands out anti-bullying bracelets.

KENZIE H., 16, TEMECULA, CA

When Kenzie was 11 years old, her dad was deployed to Afghanistan. She found that having something positive to focus on helped her through this difficult time. Kenzie wanted other military children to have something positive to focus on as well. So, Kenzie started a program called Brat Pack 11 to grant wishes for military children of wounded and fallen soldiers. Kenzie recently won recognition as Military Child of the Year in 2014 for her work with military children around the world and in her community.

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.

MACI J., 18, WIDNES, UK

Having seen first-hand how bullying affects others, particularly a young boy she witnessed being bullied due to his learning disability. Maci spends much of her time working at her sports club working one-on-one with children who have mild to severe disabilities. Maci helps organize sports sessions, setting up equipment or by running warm ups, as well as leading writing sessions to help children who have difficulty writing.

SEREANA K. , 15, BETHESDA, MD

As President of the non-partisan youth advocacy organization Youth for National Change (YNC), Sereana has advocated on a variety of bills at the Maryland State Capital, ensuring that youth opinion is heard on issues related to education, public health and technology use. Sereana and YNC have provided essential input on bills to integrate students with disabilities into sports programs, protect privacy of student data, make essential curriculum and testing changes, and provide disability students with curriculum options. Since 2013, the organization that Sereana started has developed a national presence through 12 state chapters.

LIAM K., 12, BROWNTOWN WI

Liam focuses his community service efforts on harvesting unpicked neighborhood fruit trees and donating the bounty to a monthly community meal. Liam organizes a youth volunteer team called “Harvest Ninjas” which has harvested nearly 1,400 pounds of fruit and vegetables would have otherwise been wasted. Liam's Harvest Ninja program was also recognized at the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge 2013 Kids State Dinner as an example of what kids can do to inspire food system change.

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.

ALEXANDER L., 11, LOVELAND, OH

After hearing about children in his city that did not have access to books or own books of their own, Alex was inspired to create Adopt a Book. Through this nonprofit, Alex hosts drives to collect new and gently used children's books for kids in need. Through Adopt a Book, Alex has collect approximately 50,000 books and raised $4,500 to support literacy initiatives. Additionally, Alex was recently given the Youth Leadership Award from The United Way of Greater Cincinnati.

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.

McKENNA L., 9, WINDSOR, ON

McKenna was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was four years old, requiring two surgeries and critical care treatment. As a result of this experience, McKenna led her family and friends in the Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada's annual fundraising campaigns. She has also worked to raise awareness for the Foundation over the past four years. To date, McKenna has helped raise more than $45,000 for her local children's hospital.

CARSON M., 11, COEUR d'ALENE, ID

A repeat Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes finalist, Carson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2010. He raised funding and created awareness for JDRF when he rode a unicycle for a three-mile walk benefiting the cause. As a 2013 JDRF Children's Congress delegate, Carson participated in meetings with Idaho's delegation on Capitol Hill to advocate for $150 million per year for Type 1 diabetes research. Carson's tireless efforts have resulted in raising $15,000 for JDRF and increasing awareness on importance of finding treatment and a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

BRAEDEN M., 10, BEAR, DE

Braedon was inspired to launch Brae's Brown Bags after seeing a homeless man in need walking in the rain with the assistance of a cane. Braedon went home, packed his first brown bag and asked to be driven back to the man so he could try to make a difference. Since its inception, Brae's Brown Bags has provided more than 1,200 bags with healthy snacks and clean water to homeless shelters, soup kitchens and schools. In addition, Brae has given presentations about food insecurity and sparked a volunteer force of 500 people actively involved in packing bags and supporting the cause.

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.

ANITA N., 10, MISSISSAUGA, ON

Anita raised $2,200 to purchase 22 Dell tablets for the new school being built in Attawapiskat, Ontario. She was inspired to raise these funds after meeting with the school's Vice Principal, who told Anita that the new school was lacking in technology. Anita then took the lead in meeting with Dell Canada executives, who provided special pricing for this important effort.

CARAGAN O., 12, DePERE, WI

After being diagnosed with dyslexia in third grade, Caragan co-founded Bright Young Dyslexics, to help raise funding for students in need of tutoring and technology. Intensive phonics based tutoring is often required for students with dyslexia, and these services are cost prohibitive for many families. Caragan has raised $13,000 and has helped educate her community about dyslexia. Her efforts have helped increase awareness and allowed dyslexic student to succeed in school and grow in confidence.

DANA O.L., 15, BILLINGHAM, UK

Dana has been a young caretaker, having helped look after her disabled mother since the age of nine. Dana does presentations to future medical professionals, social workers, teachers to provide guidance on how to better identify and support young caretakers. Dana has also helped raise over 10,000 pounds for the charity Eastern Ravens Trust, helping to ensure that other young caretakers receive some financial support.

RACHEL R., 10, VINE GROVE,KY

While playing on the playground at a young age, Rachel noticed how children with disabilities were unable to experience the same level of fun as others because of a lack of handicapped-accessible equipment. As a result, Rachel launched “=Fun for Everyone, to advocate for those children who are missing out on some of the simple joys of childhood. Rachel has raised approximately $40,000 this year and is hopeful that her efforts will bring equality to the playground.

ELEANOR S., 10, EL PASO, TX

A repeat Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes finalist, Eleanor's efforts support homeless pets and the hungry. Eleanor created Pennies Fur Pets to support the Animal Rescue League of El Paso and Kans for Kids to facilitate and fund food drives in the El Paso area. To date, Pennies Fur Pets has raised nearly $32,000, saving approximately 2,000 pets. Kans for Kids has collected more than 850 pounds of food and provided approximately 9,800 meals to the hungry.

BOBBY S., 11, ORLANDO, FL

Many young children do not comprehend the risks of eating poorly and exercising infrequently. To address these challenges, Bobby has created an organization called Healthy Me, which highlights the importance of healthy eating and exercising regularly. Bobby has personally planted four vegetable gardens at schools and homeless shelters.

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.

LUKE S., 18, ROLLING HILLS, CA

Luke is the co-founder of PressFriends, a student run newspaper and peer mentoring program for underserved youth. Luke uses the newspaper as a vehicle to encourage kids to write. He has recruited hundreds of volunteers for PressFriends who have mentored more than 1,800 underserved youth. PressFriends has established more than 85 newspapers and printed over 42,000 copies, utilizing games and activities to make writing both easy and fun for children.

WILL T., 15, MCLEAN, VA

Will started Operation Hawkeye to rally support and raise funds for Special Operations forces (SOF) charities through a wide-range of sport-related events. Will also launched the Operation Hawkeye website, and manages a Facebook following of more than 107,000, to honor fallen heroes, raise awareness, and facilitate action. Will's actions and leadership have helped raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for SOF charities, impacting hundreds of Gold Star families.

RYAN T., 15, EMERALD HILLS, CA

In order to increase literacy in the community, Ryan formed a Youth Literacy Council with nine teenagers from 17 different high schools. Ryan led a book drive, collecting 17,132 books that have been given to impoverished youth and to several community literacy programs and nonprofit groups. After managing over 70 volunteers at 28 donation sites, Ryan created a website to guide other youth worldwide on how to run a successful book drive to help generate a movement of change through increasing literacy.

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.

JANIS W., 11, MISHAWKA, IN

Janis started the Care and Share Bags project, which helps those in the community to meet simple needs. Through her project, Janis provides food for the hungry, personal care kits for the homeless, clothing for growing children and gift bags for seniors in nursing homes. Through Care and Share Bags, Janis has given more than 65,000 itemsand 1606 pounds of food to those in need since 2008.

CHRISTOPHER Y., 17, JERICHO, NY

Christopher founded Kids Change the World (KCW), a global youth-led nonprofit organization dedicated to leveraging the power of youth with a goal of positively changing the lives of children worldwide. Christopher has raised thousands of dollars through Read-A-Thons and other fundraisers for cleft lip and palate surgery. He founded KCW to aid other youth who wanted to follow his example and begin their own charitable programs. Christopher has raised enough funding for 70 cleft palate surgeries. Last summer, he was awarded a full scholarship by the U.S. Department of State to study in China and visit the many patients he has been helping.