ST. LOUIS, Aug. 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Millions of extraordinary children have come through the doors of Build-A-Bear Workshop® stores over the years, and today, the Company honors 10 incredible children as its 2014 Huggable Heroes – a long-running Build-A-Bear Workshop initiative that recognizes and rewards charitable-minded youths who are making the world a better place.
"When you take a moment and absorb the selflessness, generosity, energy and compassion of our Huggable Heroes, one can't help but feel optimistic about the younger generation and what they will build well into the future," said Sharon John, Build-A-Bear Workshop chief executive officer. "It is truly inspiring to see what these 10 boys and girls have contributed to society at such a young age. Build-A-Bear is very proud to be associated with such warm, caring and accomplished individuals."
Build-A-Bear Workshop is awarding each of the Huggable Heroes a $5,000 scholarship and a $2,500 donation to a charity of his or her choice. Since its inception in 2004, Build-A-Bear Workshop has invested more than $1 million in recognizing and honoring the heroic efforts of more than 100 "Huggable Heroes" in the United States, Canada and the U.K.
"Huggable Heroes is a rewarding program in every sense of the word," said Gina Collins, Build-A-Bear Workshop chief marketing officer. "Our 2014 Huggable Heroes have given so much of themselves, and it seems only fitting for Build-A-Bear to award each of the winners scholarships which will benefit their future education, while still giving each of them the opportunity to once again help their very worthy cause."
The 2014 Huggable Heroes contest was open to children ages eight to 18 in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Build-A-Bear Workshop received more than 500 nominations, which were narrowed down to 48 finalists in July. An independent judging organization oversaw the selection of the 10 Huggable Heroes.
Since 2004, more than 12,000 kids have been nominated for the Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes program. The 100-plus winners through the years have collectively raised more than $10.3 million and gathered 300 million items for their causes.
The Build-A-Bear Huggable Heroes "Class of 2014" is being honored for making an incredible impact through fundraising, volunteerism, granting wishes and lifting the hearts and spirits of the less fortunate in our society. From supporting children who are battling cancer to providing relief and appreciation to military veterans, to raising funds and awareness for issues faced by teenage girls around the world, this group of amazing young people has raised more than $800,000 in support of a variety of unique causes.
"Build-A-Bear is once again so pleased to be recognizing and honoring young social engineers who have proven – year in and year out – that energy and heartfelt determination can go a long way in bettering the lives of others," Collins said. "The 10 winners are all very worthy of their newest and hard-earned accolade – 2014 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes."
2014 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes
Zachary Abel, 14, Sewickley, PA
Zachary is a former Make-A-Wish recipient who created Make A Move for Make-A-Wish – a bike, walk and run event to support wish kids in his community. Now cancer free, Zack organized the Make-A-Wish fundraiser to give back to the organization that granted his wish for a T-Rex Dinosaur statue for his backyard when he was ill. To date, Zack has raised more than $65,000 for Make-A-Wish and helped grant 16 wishes for children battling cancer.
Michael Bervell, 16, Snohomish, WA
Michael started an organization called Hugs for Ghana to mobilize students in his community through volunteering, fundraising, and collecting in-kind donations. In 2013 and 2014, he organized two Ghanaian culture night fundraisers in his community and collected more than $12,000. Additionally, Michael partners with a range of organizations and dozens of schools to organize donation drives that have garnered more than $20,000 worth of sports gear and collected nearly 4,000 books, all to benefit Ghanaian youth.
Daniella Cohen, 16, Highland Park, IL
Daniella founded GIVE, a letter writing exchange, to promote cultural understanding and education. GIVE pen pals learn to empathize and interact with a different culture that they otherwise would not have been exposed to. GIVE has sent thousands of letters and flip-flops, signed with messages of hope, to schools in India, Uganda, Rwanda, Israel and Iraq. Daniella has also spearheaded an effort to provide Internet service and laptops to students in Uganda.
Sarah Gordon, 16, Portland, OR
Sarah's passion for learning led her to motivate adolescent girls in her community to come together to raise funds and awareness for teenage girls around the world. Sarah brought the United Nations Foundation's Girl Up campaign to Oregon. Girl Up gives American girls the opportunity to support UN programs that help some of the world's hardest-to-reach adolescent girls through education and inspiration. Thanks to Sarah, there are more than 200 students volunteering for the six different chapters of Girl Up in Oregon.
Izzi Hickmott, 16, Brighton, UK
Diagnosed with Type I diabetes at age 10, Izzi became eager to share her experiences to help others. In addition to supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) through fundraising, Izzi has supported other young people with Type 1 diabetes by becoming an advocate in the Houses of Parliament. Additionally, Izzi has collaborated with local Council officials and representatives from the National Health Service to put in place relevant and proper support for young people with T1 diabetes in schools.
Kylie Kuhns, 17, Mifflinburg, PA
After losing her sister to leukemia in 2005, Kylie wanted to help other children and families diagnosed with cancer. She founded Kelsey's Dream, and recently developed and introduced Hopper the Cancer Crusher, a fluffy green frog play therapy toy for children undergoing cancer treatment. To date, the play therapy toy has been delivered to 24 hospitals throughout the nation, with a goal of distributing Hopper the Cancer Crusher to all pediatric oncology hospitals across the U.S. Kelsey's Dream has mobilized 400 volunteers, raised approximately $265,000, and produced 8,000 therapy play toys to date.
Rachel Ley, 17, Stevens Point, WI
Rachel started Literacy for Little Ones, an early literacy program that encourages parents to read to their infants and provides book packages to newborns' families. What began at Rachel's local community hospital in 2009 has expanded to four additional hospitals in Wisconsin, one hospital in Minnesota, and one hospital in Nicaragua, impacting approximately 520 infants per month. Thus far, Literacy for Little Ones has distributed book packages to 7,400 families, and has over 700 volunteers.
Brodie Meredith, 13, Walsall, UK
Brodie and family launched Livvy's Smile, a charitable endeavor in memory of Brodie's sister Livvy. Livvy's Smile's mission is to create memory making days for children with disabilities, together with their families. Brodie does many things to help Livvy's Smile including coordinating events and sending mailings. In addition to her own time and effort, Brodie inspires friends to fundraise and challenges them to support children with disabilities.
Casey Sokolovic, 16, Winterville, NC
Casey inspires at-risk students to get involved, raise awareness and learn the plight of the world's sea turtle population through STEM-focused (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) environmental camps. She also hosts a year-round community calendar of learning and service activities. Over the last three summers, the camps have provided 340 at-risk youth opportunities to participate in STEM-focused, nature activities. In total, Casey's efforts have raised more than $350,000 to help fund these camps and calendar of activities.
Alexis Werner, 18, Pittsburgh, PA
Alexis created an organization called Seeds of Hope, which provides relief for veterans and their families affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Through Seeds of Hope Alexis has planted 15 self-sustaining gardens nationwide, to provide veterans and their families access to fresh and healthy produce. She has also created a children's book about veteran appreciation, and a documentary that describes the psychological effects of war.
For more information, please visit buildabear.com/huggableheroes.
About Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc.
Founded in St. Louis in 1997, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc. is the only global company that offers an interactive make-your-own stuffed animal retail-entertainment experience. There are approximately 400 Build-A-Bear Workshop stores worldwide, including company-owned stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and franchise stores in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, and Mexico. The Company was named to the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® list for the sixth year in a row in 2014. Build-A-Bear Workshop (NYSE: BBW) posted total revenue of $379.1 million in fiscal 2013. For more information, call 888.560.BEAR (2327) or visit the Investor Relations section of its Web site at buildabear.com®.
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