Since starting Build-A-Bear Workshop in 1997 I have met some amazing children and their families. Many inspire me to work harder for my community and harder for the less fortunate. Like Taylor Crabtree who has done so much for kids with cancer since she was 7 and now at college or Lucy Amrhein a young, kind caring woman in Maryland.

Our Huggable Hero program was born of this desire to encourage and reward young people to give back to their communities. When a child gives, the return on investment is hugely magnified—maybe by 300 times. Each winner—10 winners per year x the past 6 years wins $2500 for their charity could mean –that could mean per $ invested, we have helped raise $45 million for causes supported by kids…. WOW!! In addition we also give each winner a $7500 scholarship to help pay for their college education.

How did these kids separate themselves in this special way? I have been thinking about this a lot lately and coincidentally ran into my friend Carol Weisman who wrote a book “Raising Charitable Children” and I asked her.  She said,  “Look at your own life Maxine, what most influenced you.”

1)  My mom took me with her to her charitable activities—as much as it wasn’t always my favorite thing, I went and I learned a lot! To Hope School, to sit-ins at the Woolworth’s in DT Miami, to the Democratic Convention in Miami Beach…. So many wonderful memories of things we did together that mattered!
2)  My mom always shared with me how she gave back to the community starting with her work during WWII with Eleanor Roosevelt and Rose Kennedy
3)  My parents raised me with a faith in God and to do the right thing. Again lots of Sunday school classes I didn’t love but they did help me gain a better ethical view of the world. Whether you pass the plate for donations at church or collect change in the Tsedekah box, charity is often an important part of faith based learning, at least it was for me.
4)  We always ate dinner together and talked about our day. Much of my Mom’s day was spent in fund raising and advocacy for children with Down Syndrome
5)  Best of all my parents let me decide what I wanted to give to—how I wanted to make a difference

Pretty simple stuff really but what it gets down to is charity was part of our family culture. We were far from rich but we were billionaires in intellectual curiosity and world wide caring for others. Little did I know how our family culture—those 5 simple acts done over and over, would impact me in my adult life.

This week is a big week for St. Louis and for my husband Bob and me. Casa de Salud, the health and wellness clinic he has masterminded for St. Louis in partnership with Saint Louis University will have its official grand opening this coming Friday. He has done an amazing job and bringing together various health organizations in this collaborative effort. I am so proud of him and his passion for this segment of our underserved population.

Next Sunday I will introduce Talia Leman age 15, a 2007 Huggable Hero (she was almost 12) who will be in St. Louis to speak and inspire children as part of the Lee Institute founded by my recently deceased friend, Des Lee. Talia founded RandomKID and believes that ANYone can stand up and change the world—even a child. She not only raises money to do wonderful things herself but shares her money (over $10 million raised so far) with other children so they can do amazing things too. Truly the power of 1+1=10! Talia’s mom Dana is a wonderful supporter of Talia’s efforts and reminds me in so many ways of my mom and me and the difference we made together.

Today while I was checking my tweets I saw a request for ideas from SVMoms to help families raise charitable children—I had to respond. My suggestion, do it together as a family. The family that volunteers together stays together!

I am putting the outline together for my next book–“Becoming My Mother’s Daughter –Raising a Child With Heart”  Thanks to all the parents and children who have inspired me to live a life of  purpose and sharing.

Hugs to all,


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  1. Ed Brenegar Says:

    Maxine, thank you for your post. And thank you for your support and encouragement of Talia and RandomKid. As a parent and a RandomKid board member, I want to affirm your comments as not just true, but significant for every family on the planet.

    Each of our children have a desire to make a difference that matters. They may not know what that is, or how to express it, or how to do it. They need us to help them learn, not to do it for them, but to be their partners by sharing in the learning experience of giving.

    For all the people in St. Louis who may have the opportunity to hear Talia speak at the Lee Institute events, please make sure you do. Her message is singularly important for kids, parents, communities and our nation at its time in history.

    Congratulations, Maxine of the opening of this new health center, and thank you for your support of RandomKid and Talia over the past few years.

  2. karayourock3 Says:

    That’s so cool how you did the huggable hero’s program insipring us to do more than we need to! (my Aunt had gone to haiti recently to help the orphans their but then the earthquake came and they had to leave and it was a tuff choice for my aunt eother to stay or leave)

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