Kids Are Heroes is a nonprofit that empowers, encourages and inspires children to become leaders through volunteerism and community involvement. We do this by showcasing and supporting children who are changing the world through their selfless acts of giving.
In February of 2008, Gabe O’Neill just happened to see an interview Charlie Rose conducted of Sir Richard Branson. He spoke of social entrepreneurship, a term which means to use technology and ideas to solve social problems, not just money. He gave several brilliant examples. Gabe had no money to give anyway but he felt inspired so he thought the concept of using my technical skills for the greater good was a wonderful idea. Just what that was had yet to be determined. Around that time his daughter MaryMargaret, who was nine years old at the time wanted her dad to help her build a website.
“I want to help animals,” she said. Gabe thought this was a great way to put my newly discovered energy to work and also spend some quality time with his daughter. He responded by saying, “Why stop at animals? Why not help people too and maybe the environment?” MaryMargaret agreed and the two were off developing their new idea. They had heard of kids doing wonderful things for other people without any consideration of their own benefit. MaryMargaret herself had decided to give up her ninth birthday gifts to support the Defenders of Wildlife. Why not highlight these children and show other kids and parents what kids are capable of to start a movement to get kids more involved in their communities? MaryMargaret and Gabe both agreed.
Kids Are Heroes was the result. MaryMargaret got busy drawing the logo (which has remained to this day).
The pair had business meetings where they would talk about what should be on the website. “There’s gotta be fun stuff for kids,” MaryMargaret asserted. In March 2008 they bought the www.kidsareheroes.com domain and published the site.
What started as a father’s attempt to do something meaningful with his only child quickly blossomed into something much bigger than both of them. The local mall became involved and to this day hosts a Kids Are Heroes Day on an annual basis. We quickly grew with the assistance of several social media platforms. People who recognized what they were doing had a visceral reaction to it. They began in their own neighborhood finding local kids as the story hit the community newspaper. After they ventured into social media, people from other states, then other countries began to participate.
In Kids are Heroes’ first four years they have to date featured 300 heroes from nine countries, and changed many more lives.
“After having learned so much along the way we know this concept works in every corner of the world,” said Gabe. “We are helping children turn into compassionate leaders of tomorrow. We are so encouraged by our kids that we plan and fully expect to make Kids Are Heroes a huge organization one day. But for now we focus on one hero at a time.”
Q: Who do you serve?
A: What we strive to do on a daily basis is let families know these children are out there, and that their children can be featured alongside our heroes. Upon completion of these types of activities, we recognize that lives are changed — not only of the children who are performing these acts, but also of the parents who are supporting their children. And of course the people and animals on the receiving end benefit greatly as well. This concept works in every corner of the globe. Our success stems from not telling kids what projects they must perform, but helping them to uncover their passions and then supporting them. This keeps them involved for a longer period of time.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: We truly believe that kids are indeed heroes and each one has the power to change the world. It is not about the recognition — even though we do recognize children for the generous acts they perform. The kids simply aren’t interested in the accolades. What they do want is for us to raise awareness about the causes they so deeply believe in, and they love to inspire other children to join in.