After receiving nearly 1,500 nominations for its 2006 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes program, 12 inspiring kids have been recognized for their outstanding efforts to change the world.
The heroic stories of this year’s Huggable Heroes range from Welland Burnside, 18, starting Suitcases for Kids, so that children moving from one foster home to another wouldn’t have to carry their belongings in black garbage bags, to Maggie Fazenbaker, 14, of New Mexico, whose project called Operation Soldier Smiles sends care packages to deployed soldiers in the war zone. Jeniece Klammer, 18, of Michigan, started a back-to-school effort collecting school supplies for less fortunate children in her own school.
Build-A-Bear Workshop invited the public to visit their Web site to vote for the person who most touched their heart. Anthony Leanna, 14, of Suamico, Wisconsin, was selected as the People’s Pick Huggable Hero for Heavenly Hats, a program that donates brand new hats to cancer patients. More than 80,000 new pieces of headwear have been donated, thanks to Anthony, to hospitals and clinics nationwide over the past four years. Heavenly Hats has inspired hundreds of youth groups and schools to help out by hosting hat drives.
Anthony was honored along with the other 2006 Huggable Heroes at the First Star charity gala in Los Angeles, California, on Saturday. Malcolm David Kelley, “Walt” from television’s Lost, hosted the event. Each hero received a donation to their cause of $,2500.
“We are so proud and impressed by everything our Huggable Heroes have accomplished,” said Maxine Clark, Founder and Chief Executive of Build-A-Bear Workshop. “These young people are great examples of success, proving that no matter how old you are, or where you live, you can make a difference. They will touch many people’s lives and become even greater future leaders for our country.”
Bailey Reese, 9, Niceville, Fla.
Sent more than 12,000 care packages to soldiers in Iraq.
Charlotte McKane, 10, Oneonta, N.Y.
Donates hygiene products to families in violence intervention programs and games and videos to a local psychiatric unit. Raised $13,000 to benefit these groups.
Kaylene Wright, 12, Westland, Mich.
She has donated almost 1,000 children’s books to hospitals.
Heather Wilder, 12, Las Vegas, Nev.
As a former foster child, she writes books to raise awareness about the challenges foster kids face.
Maggie Fazenbaker, 14, Alamogordo, N.M.
Care packages for U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
Jenessa Largent, 14, White Bear Lake, Minn.
Her group has made over 200,000 bracelets to support service men and women.
Anthony Leanna, 14, Suamico, Wisc.
Donates hats to cancer patients.
Ted Cox, 15, Marysville, Ohio
Dedicated volunteers at a local hospital.
Welland Burnside, 17, Garden City, S.C., Suitcases for Kids
Donates suitcases to foster kids: to date 400,000 suitcases have been collected.
Brittany Palmer, 18, North Vancouver, BC, Canada
Active community volunteer for Easter Seals and other organizations.
Jeniece Klammer, 18, Ypsilanti, Mich.
Sent 200 children from poorer families back to school with special backpacks filled with school supplies.
Matthew Krauze, 18, Warwick, N.Y.
Volunteers for Puppies Behind Bars: One of his raffles raised over $1,000 for the cause.
More Huggable Hero stories and photos online at Build-aBear Workshop