When my second-grader announced her plan to hold a bake sale for cheetah conservation, I blew her off. It just sounded like more work for me.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
I’m glad she did.
That summer, we sold decorated cheetah cookies on the street corner. My painfully shy 8-year-old counted change and earnestly explained cheetah ecology to adults. She raised $200.
Sometimes we parents forget how capable our kids are. Unreserved in their passions and unbounded in optimism, children are natural change agents. Need proof? Here’s a list of nonprofits started by kids to inspire yours (and you!).
March For Our Lives was created by survivors of the Feb. 14, 2018, school shooting in Parkland, Florida, but has spread across the country. After their famous march against gun violence, students went on a nationwide bus tour to register young people to vote and talk about how to stand up to gun safety opponents. Theirs is a young movement in every sense of the word, with opportunities for participation ranging from signing a petition to establishing new chapters.
When 9-year-old Caine Monroy turned his father's store into a cardboard arcade, a video of the project went viral. The result was Imagination Foundation, dedicated to fostering creativity in kids all across the world. Kids everywhere can participate in the September Cardboard Challenge or the February Inventor Challenge or join a local Imagination Chapter (adult volunteers needed!) to engage in creative play and problem solving.
Alexandra “Alex” Scott was diagnosed with cancer before she was 1. When she was 4, Alex held her first fundraiser for childhood cancer research in her front yard. By the time of her death from cancer at age 8, Alex had raised $1 million for cancer research. Today, Alex’s Lemonade Stand provides instructions and event kits to help kids run their own lemonade stand and raise money to fight childhood cancers.
4. Vera Project
In 1999, Seattle’s reviled Teen Dance Ordinance had locked youth out of the local music scene. The Vera Project founders were undergraduates at the University of Washington when they established the all-ages concert venue that has grown into a volunteer-fueled arts organization engaging youth in music production and community organizing. Vera’s participatory culture sponsors concerts, arts programs, experiential learning and volunteer opportunities for all ages, especially young people.
In 1999, Janine Licare and Aislin Livingstone were 9 and living in Costa Rica. Dismayed by the impact of deforestation on the charming and rare mono titi monkey, they set up a roadside craft stand. Today, kids can make directed donations in any amount to support KSTR’s animal sanctuary, build monkey bridges over busy roads or plant trees. For families who are able to travel to Costa Rica, children as young as 8 can volunteer with their parents onsite at the animal sanctuary.
Prom might seem like the least of an impoverished kids’ worries but when you’re young, missing out can hurt. High school freshman Becca Kirtman launched a dress drive for teens who could not afford clothes for prom. When Becca was killed in a car accident at 16; her family established Becca’s Closet to carry on her legacy of inclusion. Student-led chapters collect and distribute prom dresses nationwide.
Still looking for something to do?
The Do Something website matches young people with actions as varied as campaigning for more diverse emoji skin tones to collecting sports gear for kids in underserved communities and teaching technology to the elderly.