The Genesis of Kids Are Heroes

A big thank you to Gabe O’Neill, President of Kids are Heroes for sharing his “Origin Story” as this week’s “Summer of  Small Voices*” post.  To learn more about Kids are Heroes, visit their website.  You may also remember Gabe from a previous guest post about his experience with donor walls

In February of 2008, I just happened to see an interview Charlie Rose conducted of Sir Richard Branson. He spoke of social entrepreneurship, a term I had never heard. The concept is to use technology and ideas to solve social problems, not just money. He gave several examples of which I found brilliant. I had no money to give anyway so I thought the concept of using my technical skills for the greater good was a wonderful idea. That interview inspired me to do something. Just what that was had yet to be determined.Around that time my daughter MaryMargaret, who was just nine years old at the time, came to me and asked me to build her a website.  “I want to help animals” she told me. I thought this was a great way to put my newly discovered energy

to work and also spend some quality time with my daughter. I responded by saying, “Why stop at animals? Why not help people too and maybe the environment?” MaryMargaret agreed and we were off developing our new idea. At that very same time we had heard of kids doing wonderful things for other people without any consideration of their own benefit. MaryMargaret herself had decided to give up her ninth birthday gifts to support the Defenders of Wildlife. Why not highlight these children and show other kids and parents what kids are capable of? Maybe we can start a movement to get kids more
involved in their communities. MaryMargaret and I both agreed. “Kids Are Heroes” was the result.

MaryMargaret got busy drawing the logo (which has remained to this day). We had “business” meetings where we would talk about what should be on the website. “There’s gotta be fun stuff for kids”, MaryMargaret asserted. In March of 2008 we bought the domain and published our site.

What started as a father’s attempt to do something meaningful with his only child quickly blossomed into something much bigger than both of them. The local mall became involved and to this day hosts a “Kids Are Heroes Day” on an annual basis. We quickly grew with the assistance of several social media platforms. People who recognized what we were doing had a visceral reaction to it. We began in our own neighborhood finding local kids as our story hit the community newspaper. After we ventured into social media, people from other states, then other countries began to participate. In our first three years we have to date featured 211 heroes from 5 countries, and changed many more lives.

After having learned so much along the way we know this concept works in every corner of the world.  We are helping children turn into compassionate leaders of tomorrow. We are so encouraged by our kids that we plan and fully expect to make Kids Are Heroes a huge organization one day. But for now we
focus on one hero at a time.

*Note:  If you follow Kids are Heroes on Twitter, you know there is nothing small about the reach of Gabe’s voice.  He and MaryMargaret are an absolute inspiration for everyone who wonders how much of a difference one person can make.

This series is all about the stories of people like you.  Here’s everything you need to know to see your story here next week!

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