The Hasbro Community Action Hero Award recognizes six outstanding youth volunteers who show that you are never too young to make a difference in your local or global community.
- The 2011 heroes are:
Riley Hebbard, a first grade student at Green Ridge Elementary School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, saw a news show in 2009 about a school at a Darfur refugee camp in Africa where the students had no toys. The images of the students playing with dirt and rocks inspired Riley to help by sending her own toys to Africa. She recruited her preschool friends to do the same and then asked a local business to collect toys to send to the African students. In just two years, Riley has formed a nonprofit foundation, Riley's Toys Foundation, created 10 donation centers, and shipped more than 18,000 toys to children in Africa. Riley hopes that all recipients will know that someone, somewhere is thinking about them as each child loves and plays with his or her new toy.
Nicholas Lowinger, a seventh grader at The Wheeler School in Providence, Rhode Island, founded the nonprofit organization Gotta Have Sole Foundation, Inc. which donates new shoes, sneakers, and boots to children in Rhode Island Homeless Shelters. Nick's family regularly makes donations to area shelters, but it was a pair of boots that truly inspired Nick's social entrepreneurship. His donated boots were too big for the young boy in the shelter who received them and though the boy was pleased to have the shoes, Nick was not satisfied. He wanted to provide youth in shelters with the opportunity to break in brand new, properly fitted footwear. Today, Gotta Have Sole is supported by Nick's family, friends, classmates and community and has donated over 650 pairs of shoes to homeless children. The project contributes to stronger self-esteem, decreased social isolation, and improved school attendance among recipients and has renewed philanthropic efforts among community members.
Jessica Markowitz, a sophomore at Garfield High School, in Seattle, Washington, has become a leader and role-model through her commitment to civic responsibility and community involvement. A tireless advocate for global education and a spokesperson for social justice, Jessica founded Richard's Rwanda-IMPUHWE when she was 11 to support educational opportunities for girls in primary and secondary school in the rural area of Nyamata, Rwanda. Fundraising efforts support costs such as school fees, supplies, shoes, insurance, and lunch. Jessica's nonprofit has already expanded to seven chapters in Seattle, two on the East Coast and two in Rwanda. Jessica's efforts are about building and sustaining relationships, not just raising funds because she believes in the power of providing a fishing pole, not just the fish. Jessica asserts that advocating for girl's education will ultimately allow girls and women to end the vicious poverty cycle, decrease infant, child, and maternal mortality rates, reduce occurrences of HIV-AIDS and malaria while also improving national peace and security. She will be traveling to Rwanda for the fifth time this summer to lead a cross-cultural service learning trip for 16 students from across the United States who will teach English to students in Nyamata.
Basking Ridge, NJ
Shannon McNamara, a senior at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, is an active role model for her friends and peers. Shannon believes that she has a responsibility to use her voice to advocate for girls around the globe who have not had access to many opportunities afforded women in the United States. In 2008, Shannon founded the nonprofit SHARE (Shannon's After-School Reading Exchange) to empower African girls through education and overcome cultural bias that discourages female literacy. SHARE brought 500 pounds of books to a Tanzanian community in the first year and has since donated 33,000 books to schools in Africa impacting 8,000 students and teachers. When Shannon is not in Africa working directly with students, she advocates for the cause with the motto "today a reader, tomorrow a leader." Through public speaking engagements across the country, Shannon has reached over 7,000 people most recently on International Women's Day in March 2011 when she gave an address at the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama about the benefits of helping impoverished girls. Next year, Shannon will attend Rice University in Houston, Texas.
Winston Salem, NC
Cameron Payne is a fifth grade student at Mineral Springs Elementary Renzulli Academy of Arts & Technology in Winston Salem, North Carolina. In 2008 Cameron founded The Children's Book Legacy in order to collect and donate new and gently used children's books to Winston Salem's M. L. King Jr. Community Recreation Center Library. He has since refreshed much of the library's collection by donating over 3,000 books. In addition, Cameron has donated books to Brenner Children's Hospital where he was a patient in 2006. "Children's mind need to stay focused on school work and educational activities and not just get toys if they get anything at all while in the hospital," says Cameron. He looks for books that feature a wide variety of cultures and customs as well as books that will be suitable for blind and low vision students at the Institute of the Blind Youth Day Camp, one of The Children's Book Legacy's nine affiliate distribution centers. Cameron strives to inspire young people to develop a life-long love for pleasure reading in order to improve academic and literacy skills, support children's leadership training, and champion career exploration. Despite his age, Cameron is heralded for his maturity and understanding as well as his deep commitment to literature and literacy.
Max Wallack, a junior at the Boston University Academy, in Boston, Massachusetts, has always felt compelled to help those in need. Beginning at the age of six, Max developed new inventions such as the Home Dome, a shelter for homeless people and victims of national disasters, which won first prize in a national contest sponsored by Intel. In 2008, Max founded PuzzlesToRemember which has distributed over 7,000 puzzles to more than 700 facilitates that care for Alzheimer patients across North America. Max is currently serving as an advisor to groups in Australia and Portugal that are interested in developing projects inspired by PuzzlesToRemember. In addition, since 2010 Max has served as the Science Editor of AlzheimerReadingRoom.com, a well-regarded blog for Alzheimer caregivers, and he has served as a Research Intern at Boston University Medical School's Alzheimer Disease Center. Max intends to pursue a career in geriatric psychology in order to help Alzheimer patients and their caregivers.