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Amazing Kids! of the Month

Amazing Kids! is proud to highlight the Amazing Kids! of the Month!

Each month, we showcase kids who are accomplishing amazing things.  We hope that by telling their special stories, we will inspire other kids to accomplish their own amazing achievements. 

Amazing Kids! of the Month for April, 2005: 
Amazing Young Tsunami Relief Fundraisers, U.S.A.

  Amazing 8 year old Ryan Ricco (left) and Brendan Hennessy (right), founders of Operation Dreams
Quotes of the Month

"It is so amazing what these boys have done for children they don't even know.  It is gratifying that they know the importance of helping others while looking for nothing in return. It is amazing how they have inspired thousands of other children. We are very proud of Brendan and Ryan.  We hope that their example can continue to reach other children and encourage them to ask the simple question, 'How can I help?'"

Dorianne Hennessy, talking about her son Brendan Hennessy and his friend Ryan Ricco (both age 8)
Founders of Little Hands, Big Hearts/Operation Dreams
Middletown, New Jersey

“We have been learning about the tsunami wave so we decided to help the people who lost some of their family.  We are really sorry for them.  You too can also help other people.  You just have to use your kid power.”

   Amanda Davis, age 6
Amazing Tsunami Relief Fundraiser
Mountlake Terrace, Washington

“If you want to do something special you should work hard for your goal.   After a few weeks my sister and I felt happy for what we have done for the kids in need.  If you give up, you will never reach your goal.  If I could say something to the kids that we helped, I would tell them I have been working for you so that you can feel better.”

Justin Davis, age 8
Amazing Tsunami Relief Fundraiser
Mountlake Terrace, Washington

"The best feeling was counting all that money ... knowing it was going to a good cause."

Jared Goodell, age 13
Amazing Tsunami Relief Fundraiser
Walpole, New Hampshire

Welcome to our April 2005 Amazing Kids! of the Month story, featuring the super efforts of several amazing kids from across the United States.  As you'll read, the message from this month's inspiring story comes through loud and clear:

Never underestimate the power of a child!

Each of these kids went the extra mile to collect donations to help the children who were affected by the devasting tsunami in South and South East Asia this past December.  As you read their stories below, we sincerely hope you will find inspiration, hope and comfort knowing that our future is in the good hands of amazing kids like these, tomorrow's citizens.  Perhaps they'll inspire you, young and old alike, to find ways of getting involved in helping others, whether it is in your local neighborhood or in our global community in which we all live.

And don't forget, if you, or a young person (or persons!) you know, has an amazing project you are involved in, or a special skill, talent or ability you want to tell the world about, be sure to let Amazing Kids! know about it!  Teachers are invited to nominate their entire classroom and the amazing projects they are working on too!  Simply complete our new online nomination form for the Amazing Kid! of the Month award, or email us! 

Table of Contents 

Amazing Young Tsunami Relief Fund Raisers:  Brendan Hennessy and Ryan Rico, age 8, Founders, Little Hands, Big Hearts and Operation Dreams; Middletown, New Jersey

Additional Amazing Young Tsunami Relief Fund Raisers:

Related Links  

Amazing Young Tsunami Relief Fund Raisers:
Brendan Hennessy and Ryan Rico, age 8, Founders, Little Hands, Big Hearts and Operation Dreams; Middletown, New Jersey


Brendan Hennessy (left) and Ryan Ricco (right), founders of Operation Dreams;
8 year old best friends who live in New Jersey

Here is Brendan's and his friend Ryan Ricco's amazing story, as told by Brendan's mother:

"Brendan Hennessy and Ryan Ricco are eight year old boys with hearts of gold.  They are best friends in the second grade at Holy Cross School in Middleton, New Jersey.

"While sitting on the bed with me, Brendan was watching the tsunami unfold in South and South East Asia in late December, he turned and said, "Mommy, what can I do to help?"  I asked him what he would like to do. His response was quite profound.  "Everybody know that Mommies and Daddies take care of food and water, houses and medicine....But who takes care of the kids?"

"Meanwhile Brendan's best friend Ryan was wondering the same thing. He wanted to know what things were left for them to play with.  Were they able to go to sleep at night and have good dreams?  Is there anything I can do to make them happy?

"Perhaps this was the first time Brendan and Ryan truly saw the human dimension of a natural disaster.  They saw the faces of kids their age and wondered, 'What if it was us?'  They knew in their little hearts that they wanted the kids to smile and have sweet dreams again.

"So, together, they started an organization called Little Hands Big Hearts.  "Operation Sweet Dreams," their tsunami relief project, was on the way.  They began with a letter writing campaign based on their freshly used Christmas card list.  They asked friends and family to donate either a teddy bear or a blanket for the kids.  After doing some research, they found an orphanage in Sri Lanka situated on four miles of beach in Trincomalee, ground zero for the tsunami.  It is called The Grace Home. ( And although it is an all-girl orphanage, it also houses a school, medical center, day care facility and home for battered women and children.  It is located in a section of Sri Lanka not necessarily favored by the government, so aid to them would be a little slower if any at all. They truly needed help.

The boys and an amazing Middletown, New Jersey Girl Scout troop with the
stuffed animals and blanket donations they all worked so hard at

"After a local newspaper article and coverage by the TV news about the boys’ grass roots effort, in five days their web site,,  had over a thousand hits from moms and kids saying that they too wanted to help.  Over eight thousand school children from across the country are now participating, and we now realize the wonders of what two little eight year old boys can do....anything!

Brendan and his friend from school, Patrick Walsh, open the latest delivery
of donations.  This one from Chicago, Illinois!

"Located in a tractor trailer donated by the Middletown, New Jersey, Fire Department, the boys have over SIX THOUSAND stuffed animals along with hundreds of bags and boxes of blankets, sheets, art supplies and books.  However, this is where the great story turns sad.  The boys had been promised free shipping by the Admiral Denton Foundation from Alabama.  And although a local transport company has graciously donated the transportation to the port in New York, the shipping company has rescinded the offer leaving Brendan and Ryan and the children of Sri Lanka at a loss but not deterred. 

Delivery Day at the trailer.  Thank you, Middletown, NJ Fire Department!

Thanks to our helpers!!!! (left to right...)
Chief Billy Kennelly, Lincroft Station, MTFD
Dennis McGinnis, Founder - Jason's Dreams for Kids

Lt. Jeff Lantz, Fire Co. 1 - Station 8, MTFD
Roman Biernacki - Jason's Dreams for Kids
Chief Greg Papaliou - Chief of Department, MTFD

The boys standing proudly in front of the White House after
receiving the Presidential Achievement Award

"All of their hard work, however, has not gone unnoticed.  In early March, the boys were invited to the White House to receive the Presidential Achievement Award.  Their two days in Washington included meetings with Senators, members of the USA Freedom Corps and the Director of The Pope John Paul Cultural Center. At the Center they were informed that they were in line to receive the "Hope is Young" Award at a gala in the fall hosted by the Center and attended by the Queen of Jordan and President Bush!  It was truly an exciting two days!  Upon returning from Washington, the boys also received a Special Joint Resolution from the New Jersey State Legislature commending their efforts and saluting their generous young hearts.

The boys meeting with members of the USA Freedom Corps

"Brendan and Ryan have decided that Little Hands Big Hearts needs to continue into the future.  They are becoming a registered 501(c)3 charitable organization with the goal of children helping other children.  An admirable accomplishment from two second grade boys.  Just when you question what's wrong with this world, you meet two kids who are showing you what's right...   

"As parents, you raise your children to be good people.  It is so amazing what these boys have done for children they don't even know.  It is gratifying that they know the importance of helping others while looking for nothing in return. It is amazing how they have inspired thousands of other children. We are very proud of Brendan and Ryan.  We hope that their example can continue to reach other children and encourage them to ask the simple question. ."How can I help?"

"All we can say as proud parents is....stay tuned to see what these two amazing little guys do next."

Here is the latest news on their collection efforts according to Brendan's mom:

The boys' parents are still arranging the transportation of the donations to Sri Lanka.  Because they have a 40 foot container full of items they need to have them shipped by sea.  They thought they had secured a donation from a major ocean freight carrier but the offer was taken off the table for some reason.  The boys are now seeking donations from other carriers or donations from individuals and also thinking about holding a concert with some local music groups to raise money to pay for the shipping container and port fees.

If you'd like to make a donation to help support Little Hands Big Hearts and their packaging and shipping costs, please make your check payable to:

Little Hands Big Hearts

Mail to:

Little Hands Big Hearts
103 Deepdale Drive
Middletown, NJ 07748

For more information, send an email to:

In addition to the money they need for transporting the items by freight carrier, they are also accepting the following items:

  • Stuffed Animals
  • Lightweight Blankets
  • Twin Sheets
  • Small Toys and Games
  • School Supplies
  • Books and Text Books
  • Art Supplies
  • Personal Hygiene Supplies

Back to Table of Contents

Additional Amazing Young Tsunami Relief Fund Raisers:

Below are some additional inspiring stories of amazing young Tsunami relief fund raisers...

Kayla Lightner, age 8; Decatur, Georgia

Kayla's teacher, Mrs. Sherion Armstead, writes:

"In response to last December's devastating tsunami in South and South East Asia,
Kayla organized various fundraising initiatives for a total of 1,000 students and their families at Navie J. Harris Theme School in Decatur, Georgia.  Her homeroom class of 21 students raised over $500 by themselves!  There are 44 other homeroom classes who are still collecting and tallying their funds.  The compassion and dedication of this one very caring child has sparked an interest in community service like no other single effort that I have seen in many years of teaching."

Amanda and Justin Davis, ages 6 and 8; Mountlake Terrace, Washington

Amazing Siblings Amanda and Justin, with their first pictures of the tsunami

Justin and Amanda's mother writes:

Amanda Davis, age 6, and her brother Justin Davis, age 8, immediately got to work learning about the tsunami disaster in South and South East Asia as soon as they heard about it in the news.  They learned about earthquakes, fault lines, volcanoes and the devastation that took place half way around the world from the December tsunami in South and South East Asia.  After learning that so many people (especially children), were without homes and in need of food and supplies, Justin and Amanda wished they could help, but didn’t know if two kids could do much.  They both discussed it with their parents and decided that they would draw pictures of what they thought was happening half way around the world.  Their plan was to show the pictures to friends and neighbors and ask them to donate to the Red Cross.  In return, they would give them one of their art pieces as a token of their appreciation.  In just the first half hour, Justin and Amanda raised $50.00 alone!  They figured that it would buy about 50 or more loaves of bread--or one giant loaf for 50 families!

Amanda and Justin's gallery of tsunami drawings, given to their
friends and neighbors who donated to help the tsunami victims

All of Justin and Amanda's time and effort trudging through the cold drizzle of a Washington winter paid off.   The sibling were simply amazed at the generosity of their friends and neighbors; every single person they asked made a donation to their tsunami awareness cause!  They donated all the money they collected to the Red Cross through the help of Albertsons and Office Max who were helping to collect these funds for the Red Cross. 

A local area newscaster, Eric Wilkerson from Seattle, Washington's King 5 television station, donated to their cause and now proudly displays their pictures in his own daughter’s scrapbook so she can be inspired by the greatness kids can do!

Jared Goodell, age 13; Walpole, New Hampshire

When 13 year old Jared Goodell saw an ad in his school bulletin asking students to help raise money for victims of the tsunami in South and South East Asia, he volunteered.  He joined a group of other kids from his school in setting a goal of collecting $1,000.00.  When Jared saw that fundraising was going slowly, he came up with an idea to dress as Santa Claus and collect donations during lunch hour.  He figured that the best time of day to get students to donate was during lunch when they might have extra change left over from their lunch money.  (And who better to donate to than Santa?)  Because of Jared and the other students' efforts, the school raised a grand total of $1289.00!!  The donation was sent to the American Red Cross to be distributed to the tsunami victims.  The American Red Cross later sent the amazing young fundraisers a thank you letter.
According to his Auntie Tracey, the most important thing that Jared learned from his experience is that you can make a difference!  She says he would like to continue fund raising, but he doesn't have any definite plans right now because he is busy with schoolwork.  He recommends that you make sure that you are able to devote enough time to reach your goals when starting your own charitable project and  that you don't give up!
When Auntie Tracey asked Jared what the most inspiring moment of his experience was, he stopped for a moment and then thoughtfully replied, "The best feeling was counting all that money ... knowing it was going to a good cause."

Little Hands, Big Hearts logo

Way to go, Brendan, Ryan, Kayla, Justin and Amanda!  You are an inspiration to us all.  You all have so much to be proud of!  There are a lot of children in South and South East Asia who are smiling, all because of your hard work and big hearts.  Keep up the amazing work!

Related Links:

Little Hands, Big Hearts website: 
How to donate:

Tips on Making Donations for Disasters, FEMA website (U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency)

USA Freedom Corp:

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A Special Message from Amazing Kids! for all you kids:

It's no secret...every person has an "amazing-ness" inside of them, just waiting to be discovered.  (Sometimes we just need a little help in finding out what that "amazing-ness" is!) 

If you are doing some amazing things too, we want to hear about it!  Send us your stories about your amazing accomplishments, so we can tell the world just how amazing you are!  We are always looking for new stories.  And don't be shy!  We'd love to hear from you!

Here's an idea you might want to try:


If you know someone who needs a little encouragement, why not tell them what you think is special about them?  Maybe you can be the one to help them uncover their own special talents! 

Amazing Kids! is looking for teens to be Amazing Teen Volunteers and Ambassadors . If you'd like to join Amazing Kids! in helping to spread the word, please email us at:


  It's cool to be an Amazing Kid!


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