Special to the Democrat
ST. LOUIS, MO — Thousands of hours spent volunteering. Thousands of people touched by good deeds and positive messages. Millions of dollars donated to help others. Collectively, that is what four years of Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes have accomplished. Now, as the season of giving begins, the search is on for incredible kids to be named the 2008 Huggable Heroes.
A Huggable Hero is any young person, 18 years of age and younger, who is making a positive difference in their communities or around the world. We all know them, and now it’s time to help nominate a young person to be recognized and honored for all of their hard work and dedication to make the world a better place.
“It’s hard to believe the Huggable Heroes program is embarking on its fifth year,” said Build-A-Bear Workshop Founder and Chief Executive Bear Maxine Clark. “There are so many young people out there who continue to set positive examples of compassion, caring and dedication and we want to give them the recognition they deserve. We look forward to finding the 2008 Huggable Heroes and sharing their stories.”
Nominations will be accepted for Huggable Heroes, from Dec. 7 until Feb. 8. Anyone is eligible to submit a nomination — parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, teachers, organization leaders, or the young people themselves.
Build-A-Bear Workshop will honor 12 Huggable Heroes and two of its own associates.
Throughout the program’s four-year history, heroes’ good deeds have ranged from helping animals, to raising money for medical research, to helping children in underdeveloped countries.
“My experience with the Huggable Heroes program has made a profound impact upon my life ... one which will never fade due to time or distance,” said 2004 Huggable Hero William Dunckelman. “In May, I will graduate from high school, but my commitment to service learning and the elderly will not end. It is not enough to want to change; I must be that change.”
2007 Huggable Heroes included:
n Rafaello Carone of New York, 7, who raised money in support of children’s cancer research. He has raised more than $750,000 for the Morgan Center, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
n And, Talia Leman of Iowa, 12, who founded and operated her own non-profit called “RandomKid,” which helps kids help others by mobilizing them through highly motivating, empowering initiatives. Talia has raised $340,000 for the various efforts in which she is involved.
The 2006 Huggable Heroes included:
n Welland Burnside of South Carolina, now age 19, founded Suitcases for Kids, collecting more than 400,000 suitcases for children in foster care.
n Anthony Leanna, now 16 of Wisconsin, started Heavenly Hats, collecting and distributing more than 80,000 new hats to cancer patients.
Among the 2005 Huggable Heroes are:
n Autumn Faucher, now 9 from New Hampshire, raised funds and awareness for a sick Masai Giraffe at the Franklin Park Zoo, as well as;
n Hanna Pelican, now 15 of Colorado, raised funds for Cystic Fibrosis Research.
2004, the first Huggable Heroes, included:
n William Dunckleman, now 17 of Louisiana, created FAME — Fine Arts Motivating the Elderly providing more than $30,000 of arts and crafts materials to nursing homes in ten states.
n And Rachael Lambin, now 17 from Nevada, created “Kids Helping Kids”, a program that educates the community about asthma. Rachael also helped raise funds to support programs including a summer camp she organized.
Nominations for the 2008 Huggable Heroes will be narrowed down to a field of 141 semifinalists, then 32 finalists and ultimately 12 Huggable Heroes. Seven winners will be from the United States and Puerto Rico. Two of the Huggable Heroes will be selected from the United Kingdom and Ireland, two from Canada and one will be chosen from France. In addition, two Build-A-Bear Workshop Associates will also be chosen as Associate Huggable Heroes.
Each Huggable Hero will receive a prize worth $10,000 ($7,500 in the form of an educational scholarship and $2,500 from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation to be donated to the charity of the hero’s choice and awarded in the winner’s local currency). In addition, they each will receive a trip to a special location where the winners will be honored for their good deeds, meet the other Huggable Heroes and participate in a photo shoot for the 2009 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes calendar.
Nomination forms are available at any Build-A-Bear Workshop storeor online at www.buildabear.com.