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Celebrating the Achievements of ChildrenTM

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, 2001: 
Kids Helping Other Kids, USA!

Quotes of the month:

"Continuing to give kids and teens a chance to participate in a postive community project gives them a perspective on their own lives." 

Jamie Ridgely, 16
Helping Hands

"I just wanted to help out." 
Brandon Keefe, 15

This month, Amazing Kids! honors some amazing kids and teens who have "gone the extra mile" and have reached out to help other kids in some way.  Some of the kids you will read about below  received a special award at the "Kids Helping Kids" dance-a-thon and awards ceremony (held on April 7, 2001 at Universal Studios Hollywood), recognizing their work in helping other kids. 

These inspiring, caring young people know that each of us has the power to help others in some way!  As you read their stories below, you will see that each of them has found their own special way of helping.  Amazing Kids! hopes you will be inspired to find your own special way of helping others, whether it is your friends, kids at your school, your family, your teachers, or someone in your community.  Who knows?  If you do find your own special way of helping others, maybe next time your story will be in an future Amazing Kids! of the Month story!

Don't forget to check out the special "Kids Helping Kids Links" section, to find out some ways that you can get involved in helping other kids!

Table of Contents 

Lillian B., age 6, Los Angeles, CA:  Amazing Volunteer!
Heather Wood, age 13, Los Angeles, CA:  Amazing Peer Mediator!
Brandon Keefe, age 15, Agoura Hills, CA:  Amazing Literacy Advocate!
Jamie Ridgely, age 16, Manchester, MD:  Amazing Helper of the Needy!
Cool Kids Helping Kids Links!

Lillian B., age 6, Amazing Volunteer!

At the "ripe old age" of 6 years old, amazing Lillian has accomplished something that many grownups have not accomplished:  she won the President's Award for Volunteerism, for dedicating over 50 hours of her time to doing volunteer work for those less fortunate than herself.

Read the story below, written by her mentor Holly, who has taken Lillian to many of her volunteer jobs, and be amazed!

Amazing Lillian!
by Lillian's friend and mentor, Holly

The following are some of the things Lillian has done for other kids and the community:

For the past two Christmas', Lillian has sorted through her toys and donated 
over 20 trash bags full to Children's Hospital.  When she sorts through her 
toys, it's not just old toys she gives away, but new ones too.  She said 
it's because some kids don't have any toys and the toy she gives them may be 
the only toy they have and will love it more than her.  She was 4 the first 
time she did that.

Last Fall, Lillian received the President's Award for completing over 50 hours 
of community service.  Some of the events she did included helping at an 
adoption day, where she handed out balloons and candies to the kids waiting 
to be adopted.  She also was a great volunteer on several occasions helping 
with the gardening at the Marina Del Rey Middle School to keep it nice for 
the kids at the school.  She helped with everything from pulling weeds and 
raking, to painting grass on the mural that was created to brighten up the 
place for the kids attending the D.A.R.E Plus program. 

At Halloween, Lillian dressed up as an alien and was a water volunteer handing out water to the runners and walkers raising money for local schools.  The event was called "Running Scared" at CBS Studios.  To date Lillian has completed three 5k sponsored walks for various organizations, one of which was to raise money and awareness for children living with juvenile diabetes.  She also completed a 10k walk to raise money and awareness for people of all ages living with HIV and AIDS in LA. 

Other community service activities that Lillian has done includes making bouquets of flowers and delivering them to the cancer patients at UCLA Hospital, planting native seeds along the LA River, delivering meals to the elderly through the Meals-on-Wheels program etc...  She is always so enthusiastic and gives each activity her full commitment which is admirable for anyone to do but especially since Lillian only just turned 6.

On a more personal level, one of Lillian's best friends has a severe medical 
condition which means she is sometimes in considerable pain and must be on 
an intravenous every evening and night for twelve hours.  She also has a 
G-tube and illiostomy bag that must be changed regularly.  It is often 
painful when it's being changed and Lillian sits by her friend stroking her 
hair telling her she won't leave until she feels better and that everything 
will be OK.  Just today she wanted to go with her friend to the hospital as 
support and sat patiently for nearly 2 hours in the waiting room while her 
friend was having her tests done.

Basically, what I'm trying to get across is that Lillian is an exceptional 
child with a heart bursting with love and caring for anyone that enters her 

Sincerely, Holly

Note: Amazing Lillian will be receiving a special award for her work in helping other kids at the awards ceremony at the upcoming Kids Helping Kids Dance-a-Thon!  Amazing Kids! will donate $100 in her name to the children's charity of her choice, so she can help even more kids!  Way to go, Lillian!

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Heather Anne Wood, age 13, Amazing Peer Mediator!

Ever since she was in the 6th grade, Heather has been helping kids on the playground, and elsewhere at school, practice ways of getting along and solving problems in a peaceful way.  Her job is to act as a "peer mediator," to help her peers find solutions to conflicts with other students.  Heather attended special training classes for a whole year to learn how to be a peer mediator!

Here's how it works:  Any time someone gets into a fight or a dispute on the playground, amazing Heather comes to the rescue and shows her peers how to resolve their differences calmly and peacefully.  Although the characters in video games usually "solve" their problems through violent actions, Heather knows that this is simply "make believe" and the wrong solution!  Video game characters don't seem to ever get hurt when someone is violent, or if they do, all the player has to do is start a new game to make their characters ready for action again. 

Peer mediators like Heather know that some kids aren't old enough to realize the difference between the "make believe" of video games or tv shows and real life.  Peer mediators know that if someone is violent in real life, someone will get hurt.  So, instead, Heather teaches her peers that the best way to resolve conflicts between people is through peaceful solutions, like talking it out and coming up with a compromise, or a solution which both students can be happy with. 

Heather knows that many kids are often not fortunate enough to get proper training in good communication and conflict management skills, and this can create problems on the playground and elsewhere.  If kids only learn about violent ways to solve their problems from watching video games or movies, then how will they be able to learn to get along with others when they have a disagreement?  If your school doesn't have a peer mediation program yet, why not tell your teacher or principal about amazing Heather and her work as a peer mediator?  Who knows?  Maybe you can help get a peer mediation program started in your school! 

Just ask Heather and she will tell you: 

Peer Mediation, with its non-violent approach to solving to problems, is cool!

In Her Own Words:  Heather's Story

My name is Heather Wood.  I am 13 years old and I am in eighth grade.  I have been doing peer mediation for three years.  At my school, peer mediation is a way for students to solve serious problems.  We do not handle drugs, weapons or abuse.  We help kids with problems like arguments, fighting, stealing, and boyfriend and girlfriend problems. There are no adults involved unless the students can't agree on a solution or unless we call for help.  We don't punish people. The people involved have to agree on a consequence or a plan.

I got started in the sixth grade because my teacher, Mrs. Reed, encouraged me to join.  She told me it would be fun and that I would be good at it.  I also wanted to be in peer mediation because of the eighth graders in peer mediation who inspired me to be like them. Now that I am in eighth grade, I hope I can be a good example for this year's sixth graders. 

All through sixth grade, Miss Reed trained us by showing videos of mediations. We used puppets and did circle games to practice people skills and to get closer to the other mediators.  We learned a script of how a mediation should be run and we went to several elementary schools to do mock mediations for common problems.  In seventh grade, my partner Wendy and I started doing mediations for real.  We work together as a team because there are two sides to every mediation.  We each focus on a person to help. One of the best things about peer mediation is that Wendy and I have become best friends. 

Other people should try to get involved in peer mediation because it is fun to help people solve problems. Helping others or just being another person who wants to hear the story is a cool privilege of being a peer mediator. I have learned to talk to people about their problems without being nosey.  I have used some of the skills I have learned in peer mediation when I have problems myself. 

Being a peer mediator is the way I can make a difference in the world even though I am only in the 8th grade.

Note: Amazing Heather will be receiving a special award for her work in helping other kids at the awards ceremony at the upcoming Kids Helping Kids Dance-a-Thon!  The American Foundation for Children and Youth will donate $100 in her name to the children's charity of her choice, so she can help even more kids!  Way to go, Heather!

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Logo for Brandon Keefe's "BookEnds" organization
Brandon Keefe and BookEnds

How BookEnds was born

Brandon was attending a board of director's meeting with his mother at Hollygrove, a residential treatment center for abused kids located in Hollywood, California.  Sitting in a corner racking up points on a handheld video game, Brandon listened as the adults tried to figure out how they could build a library for the children without any resources.

Industrious Brandon returned to school and organized a school wide used children's book drive at his Agoura Hills elementary school with the help of his classmates, teachers and administration.  Four months later, Brandon presented his mother with 847 books for Hollygrove as a surprise Christmas gift! 

From this book drive BookEnds was born.  Since 1993, BookEnds has enhanced literacy opportunities for more than 36,000 Los Angeles area school children and their families through the development of nearly 40 libraries in schools and youth organizations. More than 14,000 student volunteers have been involved in the BookEnds' program, donating nearly 90,000 children's books. 

Today at 15 years old, Brandon continues to help BookEnds help even more kids get books!  He speaks at student assemblies and at student service organizations about the importance of the BookEnds program.  Speaking peer-to-peer, he motivates his fellow students to take on the challenge of organizing book drives in their communities.  These drives help increase community awareness of the needs of many school children to have more access to books.  Today, Brandon serves as a student member of BookEnds Board of Advisors.  (Brandon's mom, Robin Keefe, is BookEnds executive director, and helps run the organziation on a daily basis.  In 1998, Robin decided to expand BookEnds into a community-wide nonprofit organization). 

Amazing Brandon has received much recognition and several awards for his efforts!  Brandon has appeared on "Children Making a Difference," a segment of the The Oprah Winfrey Show which resulted in over $250,000 of new book donations; and his national coverage includes People Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor and Guideposts for Kids.  His many awards include: Prudential Insurance's National Community Service Initiative, KNX Radio's "Citizen of the Week," Media One's "Spine Award" for having the "backbone to champion a great idea," The Los Angeles Times 1999 "Youth Literacy Award," KABC News "Community Salute" and most recently the Freeman, Freeman and Smiley 2000 Vision Philanthropy Award for entrepreneurial philanthropy.

A gift of love is the foundation of BookEnds from a son to his mother.   As a result, many children have benefited.  "I just wanted to help out," said Brandon Keefe.  And he has! 

Note: Amazing Brandon will be receiving a special award for her work in helping other kids at the awards ceremony at the upcoming Kids Helping Kids Dance-a-ThonYouth in Action will donate $100 in his name to the children's charity of his choice, so he can help even more kids!  Way to go, Brandon!

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Jamie Ridgely, Helpful Hands

16 year old Jamie Ridgely is the founder and director of an organization called Helpful Hands. Helpful Hands is a group of kids, teens and adults who do projects through out the year. Jamie  started the organization at the age of 9 by pushing a Radio Flyer wagon through her neighborhood asking for donations!

Seven years later, Helpful Hands has grown tremendously. Some of their projects include: collecting canned goods, school supplies, warm clothing, having parties for the elderly, making baby bibs, putting together Thanksgiving meals and even collecting suitcases for foster

Jamie's dream is to have others create their own Helpful Hands organizations in each state. (Click here to find out which states already have a Helpful Hands organization). To achieve her goal, she has created the Helpful Hands "Starter Packets" as a guide for starting volunteer projects by other kids. You can find the Starter Packets, and more information about Helpful Hands on Jamie's own website at:   If you do use one of Jamie's packets, be sure to contact her through her website and tell her how your project went!  If you do, she will add your name and project to her Project Success Stories page. And be sure to tell Amazing Kids! too about how you are helping others! 

In Her Own Words:  Read Jamie's essay she entered in the Amazing Kids! "My Amazing Future" 2001 essay contest (contest deadline is May 1):

I have so many plans and dreams for my future. I would like to be a pediatrician in years to come so I can continue helping in the community like I do now. When I was 9 years old, I started an organization called Helpful hands and now at 16 my organization has grown tremendously. I recruit many kids and teens from all over the country to help me in my fight to help the physically starved as well as the emotionally starved. We collect food, warm clothing, toys and even school supplies for families in need. We also give parties to elderly patients and collect needed items for foster children. 

I hope to continue my work and keep inventing ways to help those in need. By becoming a doctor, I will be able to help families by offering my professional volunteer services to them. I also hope to have many more resources available to me so I can improve my organization. I want helpful hands to continue to grow and help more people than it does now. I opened my own web site in hopes of attracting the interest of teens in others states to join my fight against hunger. To date I have 28 directors in other states, one in Germany and one in Canada that help me. 

My dreams for the future is to have a contact director for each state so kids and teens who want to become involved in community service can get support and help in starting their own projects. I believe if my generation all unites together to help those in need, it will make the world a better place for everyone.

I think it is important for me to make plans for my future now, because it can continue to help so many who have came across hard times in their lives. I also believe that continuing to give kids and teens a chance to participate in a positive community project gives them a perspective on their own lives. 

My hopes for the future has also made me a better person. It has given me a outlook on life as well as a lot of pleasure especially when I look into a face of a child who needs food and I am able to give it to them. Helpful hands is my dream that came true.

Note: Amazing Jamie was a runner-up in the special Kids Helping Kids 2001 award competition for her work in helping other kids. Way to go, Jamie!

Read more about amazing Jamie on these websites:

A Poem by Jamie Ridgely

Close Your Eyes And Imagine 
By Jamie Ridgely

Close your eyes and imagine how you would feel,
to go to bed without a meal. 
Your mom is sad but says to look ahead, 
someday you won't to hungry to bed. 
You lay down but can not sleep, 
because the noise from your mother's weep. 
She cries a lot because here comes tomorrow, 
and it will just be another day of sorrow. 
No food to eat, no clothes to wear, 
how much more can a small child bear?
Close your eyes and imagine how you would feel,
to get up for school and there's still no meal.
You go to the bus stop with your stomach in knots,
hoping no one will notice the holes in your socks. 
Your shirt is faded, your pants are old,
your shaking inside because you are cold. 
Close your eyes and imagine how you would feel, 
if you came home from school and there was a meal.
Someone had helped your family to cope, 
and you see that this is a sign of hope. 
Your tears turn to laughter, your stomach is full, 
and you can't wait to wear your new jeans to school. 
There is food in the house and clothes to wear, 
and a wonderful feeling knowing other people care. 
  Close your eyes and imagine how you would feel, 
knowing you had helped this child get a meal. 
There are no words that express the way you would feel, 
when you know you have helped a child to heal.
If everyone could do a small part, 
just imagine the warm feeling you would have in your heart.

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Cool Kids Helping Other Kids Links

For Kids:

Kids Helping Kids Dance-a-Thon
(April 7, Universal Studios Hollywood).  Proceeds benefit youth violence prevention and mentoring programs!

Hands On - Crafts for Kids
A company that teaches crafts lessons on their website and tv show, which teach kids how to make crafts that can help other kids:

The Kids Care AIDS Network

Kids Helping Kids Activities and Resources for Teaching Peace from UNICEF

Kids Helping Kids Get School Supplies in Russia

Kids Helping Kids Club in Kauia, Hawaii

Kids Who Care 2000 Recipients - Northern California Grantmakers

Royle School Kids Care Club, Darien, Connecticut

For Parents and Educators:

"Raising Kids Who Care" - An Article in Parent Soup

 "What Makes a Child Care?"
An article by the American Psychological Association

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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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