It is appropriate that my first post of 2011 is about leadership because that is what this world craves no matter whether you are –in the USA or the Middle East or Latin America. Our young people are setting a new bar and we must rise to it! I also want to dedicate this post to Christina Taylor-Green the young woman who lost her life in Tucson in January while meeting with her Congresswoman. Christina was an inspiration to all who knew her. While I did not have the privilege of ever meeting Christina , her story resonated for me and reminded me how precious life is and how important it is to listen to the wisdom of our children.

February is Youth Leadership Month, a PAWFECT time to celebrate young people who take on leadership roles within their communities and beyond. I travel the world over and I am always inspired by the young leaders I meet along the way who are changing our world one smile and one bear hug at a time! Through our Huggable Heroes® program, Build-A-Bear Workshop recognizes and encourages young leaders who provide extraordinary service in their communities and around the world. The eighth annual search for these special people is now on! Anyone, ages eight and above, is eligible to nominate a candidate through February 28 (and kids can nominate themselves) by visiting: http://www.lovehugssmiles.com/HuggableHeroes.aspx or by picking up an entry form at participating Build-A-Bear Workshop stores.

From the thousands of entries, our expert judges will narrow the field down to 75 semi-finalists in March and to 25 finalists by the end of April. Ultimately 10 new Huggable Heroes will be selected to join other amazing youths from the previous seven years of the program. Each 2011 Huggable Hero will receive a $7,500 scholarship toward their college education and a $2,500 donation from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation to a charity close to their heart. While the monetary prize provides an incentive, it also represents an investment in both the causes these kids support AND their education so they can continue to cultivate their leadership skills and achieve even bigger goals. Additionally, the winners will receive a trip to Build-A-Bear Workshop World Bearquarters in St. Louis to meet and celebrate their accomplishments with fellow Huggable Heroes.

Throughout the years, we have heard thousands of amazing stories of young people who do things both big and small to help improve the lives of others. Their stories inspire me and make me smile. Some of last year’s Huggable Heroes included young leaders like: Charles from Castleton, New York, who started Literacy Education for All People, a multi-year initiative to help reduce illiteracy and increase literacy education and awareness on local and global levels. Alaina from Lake Country, British Columbia, who founded Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan, an organization that raises funds to educate girls in Afghanistan. And Melissa from Mililani, Hawaii, United States, who 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. 

As my friend and 2010 Huggable Hero, 11-year old Ashlee, who founded Ashlee’s Toy Closet which is dedicated to helping children after disasters says, “The more children help, the better the world will be. Every person can make a difference.” We all look forward to hearing about the next group of young leaders and givers who are doing their part with heart.

Please visit http://www.pwrnewmedia.com/2011/build-a-bear-workshop/huggable_heroes/index.html to learn more about our Huggable Heroes program or to find tips for how you can give back.


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