As a child I always looked up to my elders. Lucky for me there were many great leaders in my community that I could look up to…people that I saw as my heroes.

I often speak about my teachers. They are definitely my heroes. Little did I know at the time how heroic they were. They were always there for us and they always seemed like partners with our parents keeping us on the straight and narrow. Teachers were clearly in charge.

My mom, Annie K as she was known to most,  was my first hero. Talk about being for the underdog–my Mom was surely that. She wanted to help everyone that needed it and in her short 56 years (she died when I was 21), she did just that. Mom was a community organizer extraordinaire having been trained in community service by Eleanor Roosevelt. My Mom had the incredible opportunity to be one of Mrs. R’s preferred traveling secretaries. I have wonderful pictures that show Mom and Eleanor at work that are awesome. At the First Lady’s knee my Mom developed a special interest in helping children with Down syndrome then called Mongoloidism. She collaborated to create a school in Miami–the Hope School, where children were differently- abled, NOT disabled!

My Mom and Dad were both first generation Americans and their first heroic act was that they wanted more for my sister and me than they had. While we never seemed to want for much, we definitely didn’t have everything but honestly, I can’t remember missing too much. That’s not because I had that much but because I had what mattered..a loving family, one dog, one bike, one Barbie doll , one very full library card, and one special bear, Teddy.

Now talking about one bear when I am the CEB of a teddy bear making company may seem like heresy but in those days, there were not so many stuffed animals to choose from. Teddy didn’t have a heart inside or any cool clothes or shoes–he always was bearfoot 🙂 but he had my love and undying friendship. While I lost Teddy when I was 10, I have been looking for him ever since. (Teddy’s lost story will be told another time)

Teddy was my hero. He listened to my tales of woe about being a big sister (it was no fun) and he had to help me rehearse my speeches and help me practice how I was going to “sell” something to my parents and he never complained.  He seemed to soak it up and allowed me to see what was right or wrong myself. He never disagreed–we were truly kindred spirits.

When I created BABW I wanted to celebrate heroes, in as many ways as possible. One idea I wanted to do from the start was honor kids who made a difference in their communities through volunteer work. In essence, nurture the next generation of social entrepreneurs–the next Annie K’s of this world. We launched our Huggable Hero program in 2004 and it is grown exponentially ever since.

Bailey, Rachel, Talia, Jenna, Whitten, William, Zach, Warner, Heather,Welland–there are nearly 50 young community leaders that we have honored since 2004 and I am proud to say that they are all my friends. You can read about each of them in detail at :

You know another cool thing about our heroes? They can all look up to President Elect Obama who started out as a community volunteer and see that volunteering is a direct path to leadership. While I believe that one day one of these wonderful children will be President of the USA, you don’t have to be the elected leader of the free world to make a huge contribution to human and bearkind. You can be just like you or me, diving into what we do with passion and determination to leave the world a little better than we found it.

Our 2009 Huggable Hero recruiting campaign starts tomorrow, January 16, and I have a feeling with all the buzz about helping our communities and country we will have the best class of winners yet. In fact Monday, January 19th is Martin Luther King Day but it has also been declared a National Day of Service. Be a hero in your own town and make a difference. It feels un-bear-lieveable to help others!

Please pass on the info about our Huggable Hero search. Every winner receives a $7500 scholarship and $2500 for their charity and in today’s world that can go a long way to making life a little brighter too.

By the way, you have all commented on Milford our CED and given me so many suggestions for a shed-less dog, thank you! Below is a picture of one of our hero dogs at BQ–Willie. Willie was trained to be a Companion Dog but developed arthritis and couldn’t fulfill all the tasks so he now helps us at BABW and believe me he earns his keep being a GREAT dog. Maybe we should add dog heroes to our search next year.


Willie always has a smile on his face and is ready to help anyone.

Willie always has a smile on his face and is ready to help anyone.

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  1. michaelmusicmaker3 Says:

    I really admire the huggable heroes! They are really pawsome! I wish i could be one but I know that I haven’t really done much for the community except for trash pickup and Eagle Scout projects :). Oh well…


  2. linda Says:

    Great blog, Maxine. The huggable heroes are really inspiring.

  3. Nunya Says:

    Cool! I got one thing to say, theres a new new new enw glitch, ok now when you are on BABV for like say maybe 30 minutes or more the screen whenever something is loading stays there like without the blue and the thing, its where its shaded and you cant click anywhere.

  4. alexandrasweetestpal1 Says:

    is willie a black lab.?

  5. NancyMusicMaker3 Says:

    The Huggable Heroes video is quite moving and inspiring! My little girl has memorized (absorbed!) the HHs in the 2009 calendar and seems to be brainstorming her own ways to help. 🙂

  6. PaigeHoneypot Says:

    I love that Willie has a red collar just like our BKP Black Lab. Was he the inspiration for that furry friend? He sure is adorable! He looks like the kind of dog you just want to hug on every day! 🙂

  7. Paige Says:

    Hi Maxine!

    I am glad there are more people helping, my friends and I want to start a small buisness! We have many great ideas to help! 🙂

    Go Huggable Heros!

  8. ♥Pamela♥April♥14♥ Says:

    Awww Willie is cute! I always wanted a dog.

  9. RST Says:

    Thank you for sharing that story about your Mother. It sounds like she was a very special lady and that her early passing was a tragedy not only to you and your family, but anyone who knew her or might have come to. Based on the things you’ve written about her in various places, I think she would definitely be so proud of you.

  10. GabbyFebruary Says:

    I think YOU are a Hero, Maxine! U R such a great person! I always donate things and I earned 50$ for my brothers school. ( my brother has Down syndrome)

  11. jocelynrocks Says:

    Maxine, you truly are my hero. But not my only hero! Of course, my parents are too. And my English teacher. She teaches me to keep on trying and never give up at time when it’s hard for me to coorperate with people. I hope you find teddy too! And Im sorry to hear about your mother. It must of really hurt to see such a wonderful woman go away. I cant imagine what I would do if my mom went away. I cant even think about it. I always end up in tears.
    And Willie is just a really cute dog. ADORABLE! It’s cool how he works in the office. If you do make a Huggable Hero challange for dogs, I know my dog wont be in it. She hates me and I love her a lot. She gave me a bite on my leg a couple of hours ago 😦
    I hope you get to visit the BABW in D.C, too! 🙂
    Have a pawsome day!~Jocelyn

  12. alexandrasweetestpal1 Says:

    My dog is the best!!! Well, mostly too much!! She is a pug terrier. She is so friendly and very nice. Everytime a visitor comes she gets hyper and when she cools of she shows off like roll or spin . It’s pretty funny. And what’s great about her is I will never get bored , she will always play with me, when I tell her to stop she’ll cool off and just lay there on my lap and take a nap. She also doesn’t hurt my buildabears LOL !!!! She also is a fan of Milford . She said in dog language that you are so cool Milford and I hope I can meet you and be friends. Oh and I have a question .can there be a My mom alexandra is so lucky!! She gets to have her own character .if you decide to have one than please ask willie to add me as a friend. Thank you milforn for listening to my concerns.

    My dog is so cute maxine and milford my dog says hi!! And my dogs name is ooffee

  13. michaelmusicmaker3 Says:

    Thanks fur your advice Maxine! I love to play piano and I get invitations to play at weddings and funerals and parties and stuff like that and I always get paid but I don’t really know how to start. The Huggable Heroes all have official foundations and they meet with politicians and the like and I just think that I would get laughed at and wouldn’t go very far at all. Oh well….

  14. megandecembear29 Says:

    Maxine, I think your the #1 Huggable Hero.
    And Maxine, I want to be a Huggable Hero REALLY REALLY bad, but I have no idea how to start, or what to do. I live in a small town, in Alabama. So, there isn’t that much I can do as far as I know . . . . .


  15. abbiebeardiva675 Says:

    I think you are the #1 Huggable Hero!
    Thanks fur the advice,Maxine! 🙂


  16. chelseaapril57 Says:

    oo how amazing!

  17. sandyartistbear4 Says:

    Willie is so adorable! I wish I had a dog, but my family is really poor. But my mom said if we have money, we can get a dog! Maybe a beagle or a golden retriever. 🙂

  18. hollyangel474 Says:

    willie is so cute i want a dog but i’m not allowed one boo!!!

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