Ten youth judged as this year’s Huggable Heroes were honored today for their volunteer efforts at making the world a better place — in total, raising funds and collecting items valued at more than $22.5 million.
They gathered at the Build-A-Bear Workshop company headquarters in St. Louis, after having volunteered an average of more than 650 hours each month dedicating their time to:
— Support U.S. troops
— Advocate for literacy
— Provide medical care to disadvantaged youth
— Help build and fund schools in underdeveloped countries
The Huggable Heroes program is now in its seventh year. Each Huggable Hero was elected by online voters and will receive $10,000, $7,500 in the form of an educational scholarship and $2,500 from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation to be donated to the charity of their choice.
The ten, in their generous spirit, have exhibited intelligence, drive, and entrepreneurship.
“Each of these youngsters, ages 11-18, has essentially built a business,” said Maxine Clark, founder and chief executive bear of Build-A-Bear Workshop. “The big difference is that they are totally selfless and the funding raised goes entirely to causes closest to their hearts.
Introducing the 10 Huggable Heroes of 2010:
Riley Carney, 17, Englewood, CO — Riley created Breaking the Chain, a non-profit 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.
Ashlee Smith, 11, Reno, NV — Ashlee created Ashlee’s Toy Closet, a foundation that collects toys and books for kids in need across the United States, as well as in Canada and Haiti.
Melissa Monette, 18, Mililani, HI — 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. Melissa also manages A Harvest for Many Inc., a 501(c)(3) that collects food for those in need.
Tatiana Grossman, 15, Palo Alto, CA — 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.
Dylan Mahalingam, 14, Derry, NH — Dylan co-founded Lil’ MDGs to help meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. He mobilizes and rallies youth in all parts of the world to work together to raise funds and resources to build schools, dorms, libraries, playgrounds, community gardens and more in several countries such as Uganda, Indonesia, Cambodia, India and Sudan.
Alison Mansfield, 15, Fort Wayne, IN — Alison has gathered and shipped more than 47,000 items to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. She also has collaborated with the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and local artists to illustrate a coloring book for Afghan children.
Charles Rappazzo, 17, Castleton, NY — Charles started Literacy Education for All People, a multi-year initiative to help reduce illiteracy and increase literacy education and awareness both on local and global levels.
Jourdan Urbach, 18, Roslyn Heights, NY — Jourdan is founder and director of Children Helping Children, which raises funds for cutting-edge research and the eradication of neurological diseases through a national benefit, Concerts for a Cure. He has inspired 700 young professional musicians, to join him in performances and in building satellite chapters.
Matthew Armstrong, 18, Fort Saskatchewan, AB — 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.
Alaina Podmorow, 13, Lake Country, BC — 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.
From Jan. 15 through Feb. 26, 2010, Build-A-Bear Workshop accepted nominations for Huggable Heroes. More than 1,200 young leaders were nominated for their volunteer and community service efforts. Entries were narrowed down to a field of 75 semi-finalists, 25 finalists and ultimately 10 Huggable Heroes.
Build-A-Bear Workshop launched the Huggable Heroes program in 2004 to search for and recognize young people making a difference in their communities and/or worldwide.