Rishika Jeyaprakash, 14, of Mason, Ohio, an eighth-grader at Mason Middle School, started a nonprofit that organizes service projects to “plant the seed of kindness” in kids, and in the process has raised over $8,000 for various causes and provided more than 4,500 new toys for a children’s hospital. “When I was 7 or 8, I started to notice the world around me and saw many things that bothered me,” said Rishika. “Something inside of me kept nagging and telling me to push away the darkness and make a difference in others’ lives.” In 2015, Rishika followed through on that impulse and founded a nonprofit organization, “Little Helpers,” to inspire kids to help people in need.
Initially, Rishika attracted a group of friends to join her mission as she planned and promoted monthly projects via email and social media. She inspired even more participation by speaking to classrooms, school groups and sports teams, and by designing her own website. Over the past four years, Rishika’s group has involved more than 500 young volunteers in over 50 service projects, such as making scarves and blankets, visiting retirement homes, sending cards to first responders and hosting toy drives. When she turned 11, she bought 44 toys with her birthday money and donated them to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Since then, she has focused her efforts on running toy drives for the hospital and encouraging others to do the same. Rishika has set a goal of donating 50,000 toys by 2022 because “a toy is not just a toy, but a healing tool for children.”