Our 2012 Huggable Heroes--What an incredible group!
It’s a new year! Every January, I reflect upon the previous year, and think long and hard about what I can learn from it. And every year, without fail, I am amazed at how much I learn from young people who are changing the world. I am always inspired by their drive and commitment to make a difference, and so I make it an annual mission to reward these passionate kids who teach me and all of us so much about helping others.
Today, Build-A-Bear Workshop launches our ninth annual Huggable Heroes search for young people who go to extraordinary lengths to make the world a better place. The program was created to encourage and empower kids – ages eight to 18 – to be community service leaders and to award them for accomplishing great deeds.
Anyone ages eight and above – parents, grandparents, relatives, teachers, community leaders, even young people themselves – may nominate a candidate. Entry forms are available at Build-A-Bear Workshop stores in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada or online at: buildabear.com/huggableheroes. Nominations will be accepted through February 27.
Entries will be narrowed down to 80 semifinalists in March and to 30 finalists by the beginning of May. Ultimately 10 new Huggable Heroes will be selected to join the ranks of more than 100 other amazing youths from the previous eight years. Each new Huggable Hero will receive a $7,500 scholarship toward his or her college education and a $2,500 donation from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation for a cause of his or her choice. Also, the Huggable Heroes will receive a video camera and a trip to St. Louis to celebrate their accomplishments, participate in a professional photo shoot, and meet fellow 2012 Huggable Heroes.
Last year I learned a few lessons on giving back from each one of our Huggable Heroes:
From Nicholas and Cassidy I learned the importance of staying positive when presented with hardships, using personal experiences to help others in similar circumstances.
From Shannon, Kyle, Rujul, Justin and Armin, I learned to look at issues impacting other countries, see if there’s a way to solve them and then to take action.
From Shaun, Jasmine and Deventae, I am reminded to always look around the community in which I live and support those in need – whether they be sick, hungry or lacking educational resources.
You can read all of the 2011 Huggable Hero stories at buildabear.com/huggableheroes. I hope you are inspired by these stories, learn from them and take up a cause of your own. Because whatever you can do, no matter how big our small, you can make a difference.
What kind of stories about giving back will we hear in 2012? I hope to hear yours or one you share about a friend, and wherever the stories come from, I have no doubt I will be inspired by them. We look forward to hearing about the next group of young leaders and givers.
Chief Executive Bear
P.S. Behind our Huggable Heroes are great parents who encourage charitable behavior. There are many ways young people of all ages can become involved in community service. Here are a few tips from some of the Huggable Hero’s moms:
• Walk the walk. Get involved yourself; participate in charitable events on behalf of causes you believe in.
• Include children in volunteer efforts. Provide opportunities for children to see and act on the needs of others so they learn first-hand how they can make a positive difference.
• Start small. Do little projects to help others and begin at an early age.
• Consider a charity allowance. Set aside a percentage of each child’s monthly allowance for charity and let them decide where to donate the money at the end of six months.
• Support them. Allow their ideas to flourish and help their dreams become reality whether that means lending moral support, providing necessary transportation and equipment, or giving them a pat on the back to keep them going.
• Remember: Encouraging your children to participate in charitable endeavors is a gift to them, as well as to the people whose lives they touch.