These stories remind me of the work Sacred Heart 8th graders complete each year through the Middle School capston “Making History” project. We look forward to having the girls share their work with the Middle School community in the Spring.
Prepare to be inspired.
Anyone can make a positive difference in the world, no matter their age. And sometimes, it’s the youngest members of society who are making the biggest impact. For these extraordinary kids, age is no barrier to having a positive effect on their communities. That’s why we’ve partnered with Brawny to bring you the stories of incredible kids who, having been inspired by circumstances in their own lives, have taken-on impactful issues close to their hearts. Their actions continue to help so many others, offering further proof that making a real difference in the community is for all ages.
The simple act of coloring greatly comforted the then six-year-old Ella Tryon at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, where she was hooked up to IVs and a feeding tube during her hospitalization in Cleveland, Ohio. Ella was being treated for a severe allergic reaction to gluten, diagnosed as Celiac disease, when she wanted more crayons to color. But the hospital didn’t have enough due to cross-contamination risks.
So Ella and her parents, Jackie and Chris Tryon, decided to do something about it by creating her campaign, “Help Me Color A Rainbow,” which collects crayon donations from across the United States to benefit other young patients. The first crayon drive aimed to collect 10,000 boxes by Christmas—and last October, Tryon delivered 13,132 boxes of crayons and 254 coloring books.
“Not only did she surpass her goal, she did it two months early,” Jackie said. “After, we asked her what she wanted to do now, and she said she wants every kid in the United States to have their own box of crayons if they’re in the hospital.”
Ella is well on her way to meeting her goal of sending 1,000 boxes of crayons to every children’s hospital in the nation and 5,000 boxes specifically to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. And it seems Ella’s compassion is contagious: a donor gave thousands of boxes in her name to Primary Children’s Hospital in Utah and a Miami donor has already contributed enough money to meet Ella’s goal for St. Jude’s.
“And she’s still going,” Jackie said. “She wants to deliver them in person as much as she can.”
Jaylen Arnold’s motor and vocal tics, associated with Tourette’s Syndrome, made school life difficult for the elementary school student. But the resilient 8-year-old decided to confront his challenges with educational awareness instead—he created “Jaylen’s Challenge” to put an end to school bullying. Through donations, his campaign produces anti-bully wristbands, posters, books and other materials to help teachers spread the message of tolerance to their students. Celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Degeneres have supported his cause, and Arnold recently received the Princess Diana Legacy Award for his humanitarian efforts.
When Shanneil Turner and her family moved from San Francisco to Vacaville, California, they joined the local Boys and Girls Club. The support of the club helped Turner’s family, who was struggling and couldn’t afford to buy her the athletic shoes that the then 15 year old needed to try out for her high school basketball team.
“I remember when she walked into my office with duct-tape holding together both shoes,” said Anna Eaton, director of the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys and Girls Club.
The Boys and Girls Club stepped in and provided her with a scholarship to purchase shoes—and Turner decided to give back to show her appreciation.
“I thought, ‘Wow, there’s people out there who want to help me accomplish my dreams,’” Turner said.
Wanting to pay it forward, Turner raised $11,000 to provide footwear vouchers for student athletes who apply to her program, which she dubbed “Shanneil’s Locker.” Nike and Kaiser Permanente have donated scholarships and shoes to Turner’s mission to provide other kids with the opportunity to run after their dreams.
4. Knitting Compassion For Others
Photo provided by Sheryl Lowry
After Garrett Lowry lost his grandfather and his beloved cat to cancer, he knew that he needed to show other cancer patients just how much he cared. Thanks to his grandmother’s knitting lessons, the then 11-year-old Garrett turned a class philanthropic project into an ultimate act of compassion.
He has knitted more than 150 caps for kids suffering from cancer, donating the caps to hospitals in California and Colorado so the young patients can feel better. Chemotherapy causes the kids to lose their hair, and Garrett’s generosity provides them with head coverings. Now his parents, Sheryl and Don Lowry, are are helping him develop a foundation to continue his efforts.
“This past year his uncle also died of pancreatic cancer, so he really wants to continue doing something for kids who are going through what he sees as a horrible time,” Sheryl said. “And he’s continuing to buy the yarn, make the hats and donate them.”
Garrett showed an empathetic streak early on, Sheryl said. For his seventh birthday he donated all of his birthday gifts to the Ronald McDonald House, and he recently delivered 50 hats to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, California, where his five-year-old friend with neuroblastoma is being treated. His big heart is truly comforting the kids who need it most.
When Addisyn Goss met her grandfather for the first time two years ago, she learned that he had been homeless for many years. His stories of struggle inspired the now 10 year old to take action, and she created the “Snuggle Sacks” campaign in areas around Flint, Michigan.
“She immediately wanted to do something to help,” said Addisyn’s mom, Stacy Daul. “Homelessness is unfortunately something we see on the way to the grocery store, so it really hit home for the kids.”
Addisyn’s sister and brother, Sheridan and Jaxson, also help run the operation. Together they’ve delivered about 1,700 survival kits to people in need. The Snuggle Sacks include toiletries, snacks and warm coverings for men, women and children in need.
Their social media efforts have gained momentum and as Stacy said, “The donations have only kept coming … we are so very proud of her!” Two years later, Addisyn makes about 100 sacks per month and delivers them personally to individuals living on the streets or to local soup kitchens, homeless shelters and YMCAs.
“When people come up to me and are so excited to get a Snuggle Sack, it makes me happy,” Addisyn said. “They love putting the socks on right away, and I can see they are smiling even though they live a hard life. It gives me hope that I am helping.”
A few years ago, Emma Burkhart received two of the same blankets as gifts and it sparked an idea: Give blankets to children who may need a blanket more than she did. So nine-year-old Emma started the “Keep Kids Warm Blanket Drive“ and set a goal to collect 200 blankets for local children in need within her community in Durant, Oklahoma.
Success encouraged her to make it an annual effort and last year she collected more than triple the first year’s number: almost 900 new blankets! The blankets went to 11 different organizations, according to Emma’s mom, Melisa Burkhart.
“She has also been able to help children that have lost everything in house fires by giving them a new blanket or comforter,” Melisa said. “Blankets were also given to the homeless community, nursing homes, police stations and fire stations in her hometown.”
Emma feels the biggest impact it has made on the community is showing kids that no matter how old you are you can help others, her mom explains.
“She also loves seeing how happy it makes children when they receive their new blanket,” Melisa said. “We have a wonderful community that has really helped to make Emma’s dream come true and she cannot wait to start the blanket drive again for this year.”
Emma intends to turn “Keep Kids Warm Blanket Drive” into a non-profit organization to continuing sending warm wishes throughout her community.