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State Honoree

Dara O'Connor


Dara O'Connor, 12, of Prairie Village, Kan., a sixth-grader at Belinder Elementary School in Shawnee Mission, helped produce a video to foster understanding about burn survivors, and assisted in setting up a mobile computer lab for kids in the burn unit of a local hospital. Dara was inspired to get involved by a friend who had been burned. "Carolyn and her family wanted to give back to the community that helped them so much after 90 percent of her leg was badly burned," said Dara. "No person deserves to be treated differently for something that isn't their fault."

Dara and two friends contacted officials at Children's Mercy Hospital to determine how they could help its burn unit. Their first project was a letter-writing campaign to raise money for an educational video that teaches students about burns and what burn survivors go through during treatment. Next, the group persuaded local business leaders to donate lap-top computers for the burn unit, so that young patients can keep up with their school work. Dara's "Kids Helping Kids Heal" group, which has grown to 24 members, is now working on an inspirational book for sick children, a video for parents of burn victims, and an educational video that helps prevent ostracism of children undergoing treatment for cancer. "I've learned to feel grateful for what I have and what I don't," Dara said.