When MaryMargaret O’Neill was just 9 years old she asked her technically inclined dad for a favor, “Can you build me a website? I want to help animals.” Seizing the opportunity to do something meaningful with his only child, Gabe’s answer was, “Why stop at animals? Why not help people too and maybe the environment?”
Together, the father/daughter duo hatched a plan to build a site centered on little known heroes… kids making an impact on the world. It quickly grew into something much bigger than the two of them.
MaryMargaret is no stranger to pint-sized/big impact altruism. On her ninth birthday, she gave up gifts in exchange for donations to the Defenders of Wildlife, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of imperiled wildlife. Soon after, she hosted a lemonade stand with friends that raised more than $600, which they used to buy toys for a camp for children with cancer.
Seeing other kids around her doing the same – wonderful things for other people without any consideration of their own benefit – MaryMargaret wanted to showcase and celebrate the good that kids are capable of doing as a means to inspire each other to make a difference. She had her dad’s full support and it was the seed that launched a movement.
Kids Are Heroes® went live in March 2008 and started small, focusing on local area kids. It has since grown into a ground-breaking, non-profit incubator for young social entrepreneurs around the world. The powerful and far reaching site is a who’s who of altruistic role models ranging in age from as young as 4 to 17… ordinary kids who are doing the extraordinary, fueled by a selflessness and a social conscience far greater than their years.
Currently, there are close to 400 kids from 17 countries spotlighted as “Heroes” on the site. Their proactive efforts toward making the world and planet better run the gamut from building water wells and funding research against crippling diseases, to bringing joy to the elderly and cleaning up the environment. We were truly astounded and moved to read what so many of MaryMargaret’s Kid Heroes are doing and accomplishing.
By archiving and sharing the humanitarian efforts of these peer role models with other kids, and highlighting the profound impact of youth volunteerism, the now 14 year old MaryMargaret continues to build her legacy of inspiring girls and boys from all over the world to give back to their communities, while empowering them to become confident and compassionate leaders. She is the mighty catalyst of an endless ripple effect of kids influencing kids to give back, which is nothing short of amazing.
Since her site’s inception, MaryMargaret has brought her Kids Are Heroes® brand to life with an annual event hosted in her hometown near Frederick, Maryland. Children who have been profiled on the site are invited to attend so they can meet, share ideas, and be celebrated for what they do at a live, energy filled, inspiration packed event.
Her Kids Are Heroes Day 2013 just happened in September and was attended by 37 Heroes from 4 countries. Among them was a boy named Abdul Muqeet who flew 15 hours from the United Arab Emirates to speak at the event (pictured above with MaryMargaret in the lead image). He is working to reduce the number of plastic bags used throughout the world by making a variety of paper bags from recycled paper products.
Gabe O’Neill made WYSK history when he wrote in to tell us that we should know MaryMargaret… he was the first ever dad to submit his daughter to us. He said, “She has a compassion for others like I’ve never seen before. And as she grows older it has remained with her and she is also spreading it to other kids.”
We want to thank Gabe a.k.a. “Proud Dad” for introducing us to his awesome daughter. MaryMargaret O’Neill is most certainly a Young Woman Everyone Should Know and if this is what she has already accomplished by age 14, we cannot wait to see how she is going to continue to positively rock the world.