After years of practice as a pediatric dentist in Mount Pleasant, I’ve come to understand that we grownups have a lot to learn from kids. Without the weight of life experience filtering out the complications, biases, and overall cruelty of our world, they are free to express their curiosity and compassion in the purest of forms.
Kids can surprise us with their on-the-nose honesty, they can amaze us with their creativity, and they can inspire us with their generosity.
Here are six amazing kids that I think could serve as role models for all the grownups who are running things around here.
Lennon M. – Age 7
Lennon is a normal kid with an abundance of gratitude and empathy unusual for his age. Lennon learned via news programs that kids in developing nations have a much harder time than kids like him do. If they are lucky enough to have a school to go to, they have to walk there—often lengthy excursions under dangerous conditions.
“It made me feel bad because nobody helped them, and their mums couldn’t help them, either,” he says.
But what can a seven-year-old possibly do to help kids in other countries? He can’t save the world by himself, but he realized that he could help other kids get to school. After getting permission from his mom, Lennon walked the 2.4 miles from school to home once a week, raising money from his community for his efforts.
“I wanted to buy bikes so they could cycle, not walk, all that way,” he says.
Through ChildFund, a charity that helps children in poverty, Lennon has been able to buy bikes to help the children he saw on the news. At the time of this writing, he has purchased 13 bikes so far, well on his way to his goal of 20.
Lennon also sold his Christmas presents, donating the $308 raised to charity. As he said, “Other children need the money more than me.”
Cassidy S. – Age 8
Cassidy was a mere eight years old when she discovered a homeless man looking for food in her family’s garbage bins. She and her mother offered the man a sandwich and fruit, but he ran away when he realized he’d been seen.
Her mother explained that the man was probably scared or embarrassed, and that made Cassidy sad. She wondered, “How can anyone be that hungry?”
Wanting to help other folks in that situation, Cassidy and her mother took big pots of soup to a local community shelter every Wednesday, earning the nickname “The Soup Ladies of Windsor.”
However, they discovered that the kitchen was closed on the weekends. ‘‘What do they do—where do they eat?” Cassidy asked. When they got home, Cassidy told her mother they needed to feed everyone on the weekends.
That weekend, they took their meals to a local park where homeless people often congregated. Though only a half-dozen showed up the first time, it wasn’t long before word had spread.
Cassidy made her venture official by starting Hawkesbury Helping Hands, offering hot meals, toiletries, clothes, and sleeping equipment. Most weeks, Cassidy has about 15 volunteers to help out, and she receives assistance from local businesses. They have expanded their services to include meals on multiple days, take-away lunch boxes, and even portable showers.
Hawkesbury Helping Hands has served tens of thousands of meals to date.
Alia H. – Age 7
Alia loves rainbows more than most. “Ever since I could draw I’ve drawn rainbows! They are my favorite thing to draw and just make me happy!” To share her joy with the world, Alia began the Rainbow Rock Project at just seven years old.
Wanting to raise money for the Bay Area Rescue Mission, little Alia sold rainbow-painted rocks on her website for $1. In the first two days, she had raised $500. It’s been two years since Alia started the Rainbow Rock Project, which is still going strong and raising plenty of dough for charity.
Alia also teamed up with shoe company PLAE, designing rainbow tabs for a line of shoes and becoming an ambassador for the company’s PLAE-It-Forward community program, raising more than $5,000.
Alia invites other kids to share their own rainbow art via #rainbowartproject or on Instagram.
Garrett L. – Age 11
After 11-year-old Garrett lost his grandfather to cancer, he decided to honor his grandpa’s memory by showing other cancer patients how much he cares about them. Using knitting skills learned from his grandmother, Garrett hand-crafts hats for young cancer patients in Colorado and California.
Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy will lose their hair, so Garrett uses his spare time to knit caps for kids who are going through a pretty rough patch. To date, he has delivered nearly 200 caps to hospitals and treatment centers, all made with his own hands. Garrett even buys the yarn himself!
Sheryl, Garrett’s mother, says that her son has always had a generous streak. When he turned seven, Garrett donated all his birthday presents to his local Ronald McDonald House. His parents are now helping him set up a foundation to continue and amplify his efforts.
Katie S. – Age 17
One day almost a decade ago, nine-year-old Katie brought a little cabbage seedling home as part of a school project. Displaying a green thumb far beyond my own capabilities, Katie turned that little seedling into a massive 40-pound cabbage.
Katie donated the cabbage to a North Charleston food kitchen operated by Tricounty Family Ministries, where it fed 275 people. After seeing what an impact one kid, a packet of seeds, and a little TLC could make, Katie was inspired to create vegetable gardens run by children that donate harvests to the needy.
Katie’s Krops now has more than one hundred vegetable gardens operating and has donated tens of thousands of pounds of produce to local food banks. Katie diligently tends to her garden and charity between classes at the College of Charleston.
It All Starts With One Little Seedling
These amazing kids have not only gone out of their way to help others, but their compassion has gone on to inspire others to help out, too! Their examples show what a difference one person can make if they simply care enough to try.
-Dr. Randy Pagenkopf