“I knew there was power behind The BIG Return from the moment the concept was shared with me”, said Mayor Slay. “This initiative has the capacity to bring communities together to create positive change. It is hard to believe that just four months later I stand here with youth from 33 schools, County Executive Dooley and business leaders and can talk about the impact we were able to have on our community.”
Iowa native Talia Leman created “The Big Return—St. Louis” after she spoke as part of the Lee Institute Speaker Series within weeks of the death of well-known St. Louis philanthropist, Desmond Lee, who funded the series. The CEO and a founder of the youth organization RandomKid, an organization that helps kids help others, Leman was challenged to carry forward the St. Louis icon’s legacy of charitable giving. With that in mind, “The Big Return-St. Louis” pilot program was born and later developed in partnership with Ashoka’s Youth Venture out of Washington, D.C.
As part of The BIG Return, Youth Venture coordinated two educational summits in St. Louis, the first at Build-a-Bear Workshop Headquarters where youth developed their ideas, and the second at Junior Achievement Finance Park, where youth shared their success, overcame obstacles together, and built community. Once their ideas were honed, students were challenged to engage as many other students and teachers as possible. As a result, these youth engaged over 25,000 kids in the city of St. Louis to work toward common goals designed to combat homelessness, global water issues, military service men and women, stray and abused animals, or hospitalized children.
Examples of projects included:
MICDS raised the funds to build a new playground for a local area elementary school in need.
City Academy created a pen pal program where they recognize the service of the children of military men and women by sending them encouraging letters or support
Maplewood Richmond High is organizing a Million Minor March on May 5th at the St. Louis Arch. They are encouraging 1 million youth to perform an act of service and march together in unity for a better tomorrow
At the City Hall event, Mayor Slay presented each school with a certificate for their hard work.
RandomKid and Youth Venture are now taking the blue print developed in St. Louis around the USA with a 5-year plan to be in all 50 states. RandomKid and Youth Venture will kick off the second Big Return for St. Louis in the fall of 2012. To learn more, contact TheBigReturn@
Supporters and Partners for The Big Return-St. Louis included: The Lee Institute, Centene Corporation, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Blick& Staff, Trimaco, Guard Industries, Cooperating School Districts, Character Plus and Junior Achievement.
Who is RandomKid?
RandomKid was founded in 2005 after then 10-year-old Talia Leman rallied and unified kids from across the United States to raise over $10 million for Hurricane Katrina/Rita relief, ranking the giving power of youth with the top 5 U.S corporate donors. RandomKid now works to support youth globally to harness their creativity and giving power for other great causes. By guiding youth to become innovative and successful world problem-solvers, RandomKid is preparing this generation to meet the challenges and drive the successes of the 21st century.
Who is Youth Venture?
Youth Venture is an international network of powerful young social entrepreneurs. We aim to help an entire generation of young people develop as entrepreneurs who will improve their communities now and throughout their lives. We believe that the greatest contribution we can make to the world is to increase dramatically the number of social entrepreneurs today and in every future generation. This is the key factor for success in every part of society, from a school to a company to an entire country.