On October 27 Kids Are Heroes®, a non-profit from New Market, Maryland, will mark their 5th year of co-hosting Kids Are Heroes Day with the Francis Scott Key Mall in their home town. This is a celebration where they invite all 300+ kids from their web site who give back. Every year has provided a challenge for them to raise the money necessary to put on the event. However this year has been exceptionally difficult since they hired a Disney star to be their headliner. This has spawned a lot more interest in the event, which is very exciting to MaryMargaret O'Neill, the 13-year-old founder.
Although the organization does get generous support via their innovative system of "Donor Walls", they must fight just like everyone else to stay afloat in these difficult times. So MaryMargaret's father decided to write a blog post after he had struck out with 15 local businesses. "I honestly felt that we were offering something very valuable in return to any company that wanted to support us," said Gabe O'Neill. "We were told that it couldn't be done through social media. Those are the kind of challenges I love to tackle."
The blog post was published August 25, and was subsequently sent out to their 59,000+ Twitter followers. "I have to strike a balance between letting people know about it and annoying people. Sometimes that's a difficult line to manage. On September 15th I sent it out again in the afternoon. Our followers were very helpful in retweeting it out for us." Gabe was surprised to receive this response from @OfficialKibooku:
Gerry Grant works with Jamie Tosh, the owner of Kibooku.com in Arbroath Scotland. Gerry read the blog post then scoured the Kids Are Heroes website. He liked what he saw. After Gabe confirmed interest, Gerry told him he would check with Jamie. Gabe was also anxious to know who was behind this generous curtain. They held a video conference on the 17th and $3000, the cost of the “Official Sponsorship”
Kibooku.com is a safer social networking site for kids aged 6-13. They have only launched their site about three months ago yet already have hundreds of subscribers. It is clear that their efforts fit perfectly with Kids Are Heroes’ demographic. Jamie has twin girls in the 7th grade. One of them, unbeknownst to him, was being cyber-bullied on a chat site by a classmate. After dealing with the school and the other child’s parents, Jamie decided to look for a safer environment for his kids to participate in while they are online. After searching for sites and not finding anything that satisfied him, he decided to create one himself. Jamie admits he doesn't even have his own Facebook account. But he had the passion to protect his twins and went about creating a safer online environment for kids. He believes his is the only social networking site for kids (including those hosted in the US) that makes sure an adult is involved by forcing the adult to pay a minimal annual fee via credit card (for tracing purposes) and by shutting down the child’s account if the adult does not physically monitor the child’s activity on a regular basis. It's also important to note that a portion of the fee from every user on the site goes to the UK national charity Cash for Kids.
The sponsorship hastened the launch of the Kibooku website to the US. They solved a few kinks so that everything worked when someone from the US signed up for their site. Once that was complete the deal was done. Gabe asked Jamie what he hoped to gain from this relationship. Jamie simply stated that “I wouldn't say it’s all for gain. We think what you do is great and we are happy to be in the position to sponsor the event. If it gets us any recognition over there at all then that’s a plus for us. At the end of the day it benefits us to be attached to [Kids Are Heroes].” He went on to tell Gabe, “I think what you’re doing is fantastic. I think that your daughter to come up with the idea and how far you've got with it is absolutely amazing.”
Gabe sees a lot of synergy between the two companies. "Although one company is for profit and the other a non-profit, both initiatives evolved from the relationship a father had with his daughter(s). That just makes me feel good about the whole thing."
So much for “it can’t be done via social media.” That was the largest single-most donation that Kids Are Heroes has enjoyed in its five year existence.
Kids Are Heroes is a non-profit from Maryland that empowers, encourages and inspires children to become leaders through volunteerism and community involvement. They do this by showcasing and supporting children who are making a difference through their selfless acts of giving. See kidsareheroes.org for more details.