Monday, July 27, 2009

Focusing on Philanthropy with Kids

There are 80 million tweens, teens and twentysomethings in the Millennial generation (born in and around the 1980s through the turn of the century). More than half of these young people have community service experience or have tried their hand as entrepreneurs. Many are concerned with urgent social challenges – such as poverty, climate change, homelessness – and want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Despite their social and economical potential, the voice of youth under the age of 18 remains a whisper in society’s ear. KooDooZ and two non-profit partners, Split Pillow and Dreams for Kids, are actively interviewing youth this summer to unearth the answer to the question: “What can you do to help people live better lives?”.

Our first interview was with Ben Spengel, a 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who thought kids with disabilities should be able to compete in a track meet. Just shy of his 11th birthday, Ben told his mom about a way he thought he could help people like him. "Figure out what you can do, and then just work really hard at being really good," his mom advised.

With his goal clearly articulated, Ben approached McHenry, IL Mayor Sue Low and explained his idea of hosting an “Assisted Walk” competition. Maybe it was because Mayor Low had been a special education teacher herself for 33 years, or maybe it was because Ben's passion was contagious. Either way, the Mayor believed Ben could take on this challenge and make a real-world difference.

He did. Ben started by typing out a proposal for the city council to consider and then spreading the word through his school, explaining how kids could empower each other with simple cheers of support.

This month, Ben saw his dream become a reality for the second time. The first race held in 2008 had two participants. This July, Ben's event more than doubled. Five 6-14 year olds using crutches, walkers, canes or wheelchairs were able to participate in five different activities: the 25-meter race, 100-meter relay, a softball throw, a discus toss, and long jump.

Ben's interview will be available next month.

It is our hope that Ben's story will inspire more youth to share their ideas on how to help people live better lives or to interview a local change-maker who already has.

Challenges facing today's youth (according to UNICEF) include:

These statistics only emphasize the need to empower KDZ to help kids, and that's exactly what KooDooZ, Dreams for Kids, and Split Pillow are doing. Will you take the KooDooZ Challenge** "To Get Focused on Philanthropy"?
Dreams for Kids is a children’s charity that offers a safe place where young people of all abilities are empowered to fearlessly pursue their dreams and compassionately change the world. Split Pillow is a non-profit motion picture production and media literacy education company. Together, these two Chicago-based organizations and KooDooZ are empowering KDZ to get behind the camera and take action.
Through this challenge, kids will get focused on philanthropy and improve their understanding of critical world issues.

**To register:

  1. Visit and click on the “Get In” button

  2. Create an account and click the “To Get Focused on Philanthropy” challenge on the bulletin board (on the left piece of paper)

  3. Click the “Subscribe” target button and start the challenge!

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