Raise children who give back by volunteering

Courtesy of Build-A-Bear Workshop/Family Features
February 2009
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GETTING INVOLVED: Let children choose a cause that interests them for their volunteering efforts, and they’ll be more likely to see their commitments through with enthusiasm.
Courtesy of Getty Images/Family Features


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There’s a saying that charity begins at home. When it comes to raising children to be generous, giving people, that expression is quite literally true.

Schools, clubs, religious organizations, nonprofit organizations and civic groups often involve students in fundraising efforts or donation drives, but the best way to raise caring kids is to be a caring role model at home. When it comes to volunteering or donating money, for example, children are more likely to follow their parents’ lead. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, nearly nine out of 10 young people who give their time have parents and siblings who also volunteer.

Major corporations are also lending a hand to encourage and support volunteerism by young people. One example is Build-A-Bear Workshop and its Huggable Heroes program, which recognizes young people between the ages of 7 and 18 who are giving back in their communities and beyond, and rewards them with scholarships, charitable contributions, networking opportunities and leadership training.

“Kids today are very aware of what’s going on in the world and want to make a difference, and we wanted to create a program that recognized their worthy efforts – large and small,” said Maxine Clark, founder and chief executive officer at Build-A-Bear Workshop. “We’ve found that the first step is often as simple as identifying a problem and taking action to resolve it.”

It doesn’t always have to be about raising money, either. Whether it’s deciding to collect suitcases to give to foster children after seeing them carrying their belongings in a trash bag, or working to assemble packs filled with goodies and school supplies to send to children whose lives have been torn apart by a natural disaster, children are finding creative ways to solve problems.

These are just a few real world examples of young people making a tremendous difference in the lives of others. Here are some easy ways to help your children put their feelings into action and develop a lifestyle of caring.

Let them choose a cause. Children are more likely to stay with something they are interested in. Whether it’s working with animals, bettering the environment, reading, the arts or sports, help them find volunteer areas that they’ll enjoy. Does your teenage son love soccer? Perhaps he can coach a team of underprivileged kids. Does your daughter love animals? Maybe she can start a drive to raise funds and supplies for a local rescue shelter.

Make it a family affair. Doing something together can bring the whole family closer together.

Volunteer as a family to rake the neighbor’s yard, help sort food at a food bank, or set up a lemonade stand or a bake sale to raise money for a cause your family is passionate about.

Sponsor a child through an international organization that provides clothing, food and education for children. Your family will get pictures and updates about that child, and you can take turns writing him or her letters.

Set a family fundraising goal for the year. Decide as a family to raise a certain amount to support a specific cause. Keep a big jar on the kitchen counter so that everyone can drop in their spare change and parts of monthly allowances to help meet that goal. At the end of the year, count it all up and turn it in together.

Get others involved. A growing number of children are engaging their friends in charity work by turning birthday parties into opportunities to serve. Instead of everyone bringing presents, they bring a toy to donate to children in need or new clothing for a homeless shelter. Everyone still has a great time with games and cake, and they feel great knowing they’ve helped someone else.

Another fun way to let kids help other kids is to host a charity bear-making party. Schedule a birthday party at a Build-A-Bear Workshop store with the goal of having the children make special animals that they will donate to a children’s hospital. To make the giving even more special, they can make one of several stuffed animals that give back – sales support animal shelters nationwide, the World Wildlife Fund, First Book and other children’s literacy initiatives, or children’s health and wellness programs.

There are thousands of young people taking action and making a difference every day. Some of them receive recognition, but the best reward they get is seeing how they’re making their world a better place.

Actions speak louder than words. Help your kids make a difference by taking action today.

Wanted – Extraordinary Kids

Do you know a young person who is making a big difference in the community, neighborhood, school or around the world?

Each year, thousands of people help identify the best young leaders in the United States and Canada by nominating them to be a Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Hero.

This year, 12 young people between the ages of 7 and 18 will be selected and named Huggable Heroes. Each will receive an education scholarship and donation to the 501(c)(3) charity of his or her choice.

Entries will be accepted through February 27. Nominate a candidate online or download an entry form by visiting www.BuildABear.com/HuggableHeroes. You can also pick up an entry form at any Build-A-Bear Workshop store in the U.S. and Canada.


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