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State Honoree

Maeve O'Connor

Kansas

Maeve O’Connor, 11, of Prairie Village, Kan., a sixth-grader at Belinder Elementary School in Shawnee Mission, created a youth volunteer organization dedicated to helping children in need. When Maeve was 7 years old, she tried to volunteer at a local hospital, but was told she was too young. Instead, hospital officials gave Maeve and her siblings a list of items they could collect for patients. “We picked an item that children would like and set a summer goal of 5,000 crayons,” Maeve said. “We ended up collecting a half million crayons! We kept thinking, ‘every crayon is another smile on a sick child’s face.’” Other “Kids Helping Kids” projects included helping hurricane victims, collecting Christmas toys for children with HIV, selling 10,000 lollipops to fulfill the wish of a terminally ill child, and raising money to build an intergenerational playground and garden for a geriatric center. Recently, Maeve and other volunteers began teaching urban children how to fund-raise and build a playground for themselves. “We get to empower other children now,” Maeve said. “Children are not only our future, we can be the driving force of today. Whoever said that a 7-year-old was too young to volunteer was mistaken!”