October 26th, 2012
Miles Louison, Candy Sushi Kid
Not too many kids start their own companies at age seven, but for Miles Louison, the idea
came from an interest in cooking.
“I was browsing through my mom’s Rachel Ray cookbook and saw this recipe for candy
sushi,” Miles says. “I asked my mom if we could try making it and we liked it a
lot. So, then I asked her if we could make it into a business.”
Miles worked on his own recipe to make sweet treats that look like sushi, a Japanese food
made of rice and raw fish or other seafood. All of Miles’s products have a rice krispie treat base (puffed rice cereal, marshmallows, and butter) made to look like the rice part of sushi rolls. His Gumi Furuti “ikura” roll, for example, has chopped up gummy worms and red licorice on the inside and is wrapped in a band of fruit leather.
When Miles first got started, he made flyers for his company—which he called The Dessert Company—and his aunt helped him build a simple one-page website. He sold his sushi-shaped desserts to mostly friends and family, but before long, others in
his town heard about his tasty treats. A newspaper article and TV news story about him caused a lot of new orders to come in—and before Miles knew it, he was in business.
In 2011—at the age of 10—Miles attended Startup Weekend in Denver, a program for entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and receive feedback and help. He was the youngest entrepreneur to attend the weekend, and impressed everyone so much that he won the entire competition.
The experience helped him think about how to grow his business and put him in touch with other business people—all of whom had much more experience and were happy to offer Miles their advice. “It was really cool,” he says. “Everyone there liked my business and they were all excited to try to help me make connections that would help me.”
Since winning Startup Weekend, Miles changed his company name to Sushimee, launched a new website, and got a new logo. He makes all of his own products, working in a
commercial kitchen not far from his home. Sushimee treats are available online
and in two candy stores in the Denver area. Miles is hard at work to get into
other stores, too.
Now 11 years old, Miles spends several hours a week on his business and heads into
the commercial kitchen every few weeks to make more desserts as orders come in.
One day, he hopes to become an S&P 500 company with products available in stores in every state.
Miles has earned several awards for his hard work and unique product, including the Young Americans Center for Financial Education Celebration for Young Entrepreneurs Award in 2011 (he was a finalist in 2010 and 2009), the 2011 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Minority Enterprise Development Week, and the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In June 2012, he competed on Nickelodeon’s Figure it Out game show, which has kid contestants compete against Nick celebrities.
Miles at Young Entrepreneurs Celebration
He’s certainly learned several lessons about what it takes to run a business, hard work, and giving back to his community (he donates some of his sales to Project C.U.R.E., a nonprofit that delivers medical supplies to doctors caring for patients in developing countries). But Miles says being the president of Sushimee is also pretty fun. “I like selling my product and talking to people.”
Learn more about Sushimee and Miles at http://sushimee.com/.
June 12th, 2012
Max Wallack, Puzzleraiser
When Max Wallack’s great grandmother began to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease—which affects the brain and causes loss of memory and thinking skills—it had a big impact on him. “She and I were particularly close,” says Max. “Alzheimer’s caused her to become a fearful and paranoid person. She wasn’t a very trusting person throughout her life, but she seemed to trust me.”
Sometimes Max’s great grandmother had to live in a dementia unit in a hospital. Spending time with her there was the first time Max noticed Alzheimer’s patients working on puzzles. “When I visited her, I noticed that the patients who were working on puzzles seemed calmer and happier,” Max recalls. After his
- Max delivering puzzles to the Alzheimer’s unit at McLean Hospital
great grandma passed away—she was living in the dementia unit the last few months of her life—Max started collecting puzzles and distributing them to nursing facilities with Alzheimer’s units in the Boston area.
That was the beginning of Puzzles To Remember.
Max was only 12 years old in 2008 when he started the organization, setting up collection bins in schools and libraries in his town. He collected more than a thousand puzzles, and he delivered all of them to Alzheimer’s units nearby. But Max quickly realized he wanted to reach beyond his local area. He applied for 501(c)3 status so he could accept tax-deductible donations, and he started working to develop relationships with facilities around the country where more people could donate puzzles.
Max also contacted a puzzle manufacturer, Springbok Puzzles, because he had learned that the best type of puzzles for Alzheimer’s patients were those with low piece count, larger pieces, and peaceful images. The president of Springbok agreed to help and in 2010, Springbok’s PuzzlesToRemember series hit the shelves.
Max just turned 16 and he is still very involved in Puzzles To Remember, spending at least 10 hours a week on answering emails, setting up new donation locations across the country, and applying for federal grants. To date, Puzzles To Remember has supplied puzzles to 1,300 facilities in North America.
In 2009, Max was named a Huggable Hero by Build-a-Bear Workshop, and received a $2,500 check that he could give to the nonprofit of his choice. Unsurprisingly, he selected the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Boston University, and even delivered the check personally. One of the lead researchers there invited him to volunteer doing clerical work. Along the way he met the Medical Center’s geriatric psychiatrist, and became a research intern in 2011.
Max researches early identifiers of Alzheimer’s disease alongside leading Alzheimer’s researchers. It’s a prestigious position, but Max says he has simply followed his passions. “I definitely want to be a geriatric psychiatrist,” he says. “I want to have patient contact and continue to do research. I have decided I will devote my life to helping Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.”
Along with his beloved Great Grams, Max says he is inspired by Jan Davidson, founder of the Davidson Institute, which he attended when he was five years old. “I remember Jan telling me that anyone who had the ability to help another person had the responsibility to do so,” he says. “I’ve accepted those words as my mantra.”
Stay tuned for a Q&A with Max Wallack, coming later this month. While Max keeps quite busy with school—he’s a college student at Boston University—his research, and running Puzzles To Remember, he also happens to be an impressive inventor. In 2003, he even won first place in the Craftsman/NSTA Young Inventor Contest for his Great Granny Booster Step, which he created for his Great Grams. He has gone on to win several other national invention contests since then.
You’ll learn all about it soon!
To learn more about Puzzles To Remember, visit www.puzzlestoremember.org.
February 17th, 2012
Christopher Yao: World Changer
When Christopher Yao was diagnosed with an under-jaw bite beginning in middle school, he was told his speech would worsen and that he could develop eating problems if he didn’t go through surgery. It was a struggle for him, and he felt self-conscious. “I know how it feels to go through tough situations like these,” Christopher says. “I developed a passion for helping others going through situations worse than mine.” Christopher started fundraising for The Smile Train, which provides free cleft-lip surgery to underprivileged children around the world—children who might otherwise be abandoned at birth or unable to live a normal life. He single-handedly ran a Read-A-Thon in his sixth-grade class and raised more than $2,000 in one month. “I’d seen the power that young people have to change the world, maybe even more than many adults. I wanted to leverage that power of enthusiasm.”
That was June 2007. By September, Christopher had launched an organization to inspire young people to get involved in their communities and help other children around the world. He named it Kids Change the World (and also established Kids Change America, the organization within Kids Change the World, which works in the United States).
In the past five years, 19,000 supporters have joined Kids Change the World, including those who have been impacted through youth-led programs that the organization has initiated. Kids Change the World has raised enough to fund 60 cleft surgeries and treatments in 78 of the world’s poorest countries. Christopher turned 15 in fall 2011.
- White House Holiday Dinner
Kids Change the World is a great place for kids who are interested in volunteering to begin their journey, Christopher says. “Our main objective is to engage youth in service,” he says. “But we run our own programs, too, to hopefully get kids inspired.”
Every summer, Christopher and Kids Change the World run a Smile Train Read-A-Thon. They support and run many other programs, too, such as an Education Preparation program for students of all racial and economic backgrounds, a program that helps kids send thank-you letters to military, fundraising for Daos Children’s Centre in Kenya, Africa, and more. Kids Change the World also helps other kids start their own fundraising programs by providing free grassroots resources.
Christopher has received many honors and awards for his volunteerism. He has earned President Obama’s President’s Volunteer Award three years in a row and in December
- Christopher recognized at the Nestle’s Very Best In Youth award ceremony
2011, he was invited to a White House Holiday Reception to meet the Obamas, congressmen and many other White House staff. He was inducted into the Long Island Volunteer Hall of Fame with the Next Generation Award for Visionary Philanthropy in January 2012. Christopher is the New York High School Honoree in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards (2012) and one of Nestlé’s Very Best in Youth (2011).
Christopher keeps very busy with Kids Change the World, but one day, he will pass the reins to another young activist. He set up the organization with a 0% overhead rate and so that people under age 25 will run it—all 100% volunteers (so every dollar raised goes directly to programs). Later in life, he says, he will serve as a board member. A sophomore in high school, one day, Christopher hopes to study in the field of business or medicine and apply his studies to his charitable work, but he is open to many possibilities.
Christopher says it’s important to him to invest in the future of youth and our world. “I feel I have an obligation to be of service to others,” he says. He is inspired by his grandfather, Yulin Yao, who lost his parents at age five during the Chinese Revolution and worked on a farm picking weeds in exchange for food scraps. After graduating from the National Defense Medical Center in Tapei, Taiwan, he later came to the United States and worked at the U.S. Air Force Hospital on Clark Air Force Base during the Vietnam War. Today, he is a survivor of both prostate and lymphoma cancer. “My grandfather reminds me that miracles can happen. He also reminds me that not everyone has the opportunities I have, and that I need to help the people who don’t,” Christopher says. “I want to make the lives of people better in every possible way I can.”
Learn more about Kids Change the World at www.kidschangetheworld.org.
January 1st, 2012
Thank you to everyone for making it a great year. I feel so blessed and happy to have been at this blog for a whole year now, and I’m looking forward to featuring more fabulous kids in 2012. I’ve got some incredibly inspiring kids lined up already so stay tuned.
November 28th, 2011
Owen Schneider, Toy-Raiser
When Owen Schneider turned seven, he gave away all of his birthday presents. The idea came to him when talking with his parents about his upcoming seventh birthday party—he decided if he had to choose between an expensive gift from his parents
and a party, he would choose celebrating with his friends. “You can give my presents away,” he told them.
So, Owen and his mom talked about giving to others and why it was a great thing to do. “We talked about the fact that I have a lot of toys and other kids don’t,” says Owen, now 10 years old. “I decided that my birthday, which is before Christmas, could be a good time to take my gifts and give them to kids who don’t have a lot.”
So, Owen donated all of his birthday gifts to Toys for Tots–his charity of choice. In the year leading up to his eighth birthday, Owen and his family shopped the toy clearance aisle at every opportunity and partnered with a Wal-Mart that was discarding clearance toys. When his birthday month came around (December) that year, Owen and his parents also planned a big birthday party in partnership with the local Chick-Fil-A. Forty kids, the Marines, and the local news stations showed up—and Owen collected around 50 more gifts for Toys for Tots. In spring 2009, Owen was awarded first prize in the Kids With Heart contest in Kansas City, Missouri.
Why does Owen do it? “It makes me feel good,” he says. “I think of the kids who don’t have toys and when I get a present, I think, ‘Wow, those kids don’t get this experience.’ I like thinking about what those kids might feel like when they open up a special gift on Christmas day.”
Since starting his Toys for Tots gift-raising in 2007, Owen has donated nearly 2,000 toys with the help of his community and friends. When his family moved to Loveland, Colorado, in 2009, Owen continued his charity work there, hosting his ninth birthday at another Chick-Fil-A. In March 2011, Owen earned the 9Kids Who Care Award from Colorado’s 9News KUSA-TV.
December 2, 2011 will mark Owen’s eleventh birthday and his fifth year of hosting a toy drive in lieu of a typical birthday party. “I started doing this just with friends, then with my school, and now I get on the radio and talk to the news stations to promote it,” says Owen. “This year will hopefully be the best one yet! I’m excited to get as many gifts as possible for these kids.”
Owen’s Toys for Tots party is December 1, 2011 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Loveland, Colorado, Chick-Fil-A. Learn more about Toys for Tots at www.toysfortots.org.
Owen's 2009 Toy Drive
October 11th, 2011
Walker Crowley, Future Doctor
Walker's big smile makes him a great volunteer with kids
Walker Crowley has wanted to be a doctor his whole life. “I was born that way, you could say,” says Walker, who is just shy of 15 years old. “I remember at my preschool graduation being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said a kid doctor.”
At an early age, Walker wanted to get medical experience, so he turned to someone who inspired him: his grandfather, Dr. Raymond Gutin. “He’s an endocrinologist at the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, so I started working with him there just to get some experience,” says Walker. “It was really fun and I learned a lot. But I wanted to do something more impactful.”
Walker set his sights on Denver’s own Children’s Hospital Colorado, the largest children’s hospital in the western U.S. He learned that he could become a volunteer at the age of 13—but Walker was 12 at the time. “I went and got the application about a month before my 13th birthday, and right after my birthday, I turned in my application in person,” Walker recalls. “I was so excited. I love spending time with kids. I really wanted to work with them and thought it would be fun and meaningful to help take care of them.”
At Children’s Hospital, Walker started out in float training, helping out wherever he was needed. “If families step out of the room for awhile, I just come in and sit with the kids, play with them, or take them around to play with toys,” says Walker. After floating, Walker worked in the gift shop for seven months. But from the first day he started, Walker really wanted to work in the ER.
He got his opportunity after proving himself as a reliable volunteer. These days, Walker
Walker winning the 9News Kids Who Care award, 2011
volunteers in the Level 1 trauma center at Children’s Hospital—every Sunday from 9:30 to 4:30. In the summers, he volunteers even more. Since he started as a volunteer, he’s put in hundreds of hours, but there’s no place he’d rather be. “What I like most is fixing kids at their worst times,” Walker says. “A lot of times after I’ve done my regular duties, I’ll just wait on the trauma side to observe and see what I can learn.”
Although Walker says he’s wanted to be a pediatrician for as long as he can remember, he also has a personal experience that helps him relate to the children patients who he works with. “I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was seven, and I was in and out of the hospital for awhile,” Walker says. “It was a pretty uncomfortable time for me. I didn’t know what was going on; there were a lot of pokes and prods. So I can understand what these patients are going through. I like to help them with whatever they need, whether that’s watching a show together or giving them a blanket. Whatever I can do to make them comfortable.”
Walker says he’s still considering what pediatric specialty he might like best. “Right now, I think I want to work in pediatric anesthesiology,” he says. Whatever discipline he ends up in, Walker is motivated by more than a love of kids and medicine. “I love what I do at Children’s, because kids have a whole life ahead of them. I think that’s why I’m particularly interested in pediatric medicine. I want to help kids get better so they can go on and live their whole lives.”
When he’s not volunteering at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Walker likes enjoying Colorado’s outdoors. He loves to ski, hike, run and climb fourteeners (mountains that reach at least 14,000 feet in elevation). He spends a month at a camp each summer, which he calls his “home away from home,” and he also runs for his high school’s cross country team.
September 8th, 2011
Charlie Fish, App Whiz
I love my Mac!!!
Charlie Fish got his first Mac computer when he was six years old—and he’s loved Macs ever since. “I have been fascinated with computers since I was really little,” says Charlie, age 13. When Apple announced the iPhone in 2007, Charlie bought one with his own money. And the year after they introduced the iTunes App Store—when Charlie was just 11 years old—he taught himself to build an app.
Today, Charlie has built six iPhone apps and sells them for 99 cents each in the iTunes App Store. He’s one of the youngest registered Apple application developers. His most popular app is called Wizard Wand, a wand that you control by flicking your iPhone or iPod—it appeals to Harry Potter fans, Charlie says. His favorite app is The Monkey Business, in which the player controls a juggling monkey. Charlie’s apps are popular, too. He’s saving the money he earns from sales revenues and plans to buy a new car when he turns 16.
Charlie working on The Monkey Business
While Charlie is largely self-taught, he also has had several mentors along the way who have helped him become a better programmer. One is the chief technology officer at Double Encore, a mobile application company with clients in the sports, media and entertainment realms. Another was a computer science PhD student at the University of Denver.
Charlie attends an online school, which gives him more free time to program and meet with his mentors. “Something like iPhone programming isn’t really a class they teach in elementary or middle school,” Charlie says. “So I have to find people who can help me learn.” Charlie also attends camps and conferences whenever he can, including iD Tech Camp at the University of Denver and 360iDev, an iPhone developer conference held every fall (Charlie was the youngest attendee at the 2010 conference). “Some of these things are designed for adults, but they usually let me in. People are really nice, and I think they think it’s pretty cool that I’m a young app developer.”
In 2011, Charlie was nominated for the Young Americans Center for Financial Education Celebration for Young Entrepreneurs award and was selected as the winner in the 12-14-year-old category. He won $1,000, which he used to purchase a server, and was paired with a professional mentor, Stephanie Comfort, executive vice president at CenturyLink.
Charlie’s picture in the Young Americans Bank lobby
Charlie’s advice to other kids interested in developing iPhone apps? Keep working on it. “You do have to spend a lot of time on it, because it’s hard,” he admits. As for his own success, Charlie says it comes from a combination of hard work and passion. “I really work at it and I want to do it, too. It’s something I like doing and I put a lot of time and energy into.”
To visit Charlie’s available apps in the iTunes App Store, click here.
July 10th, 2011
Chad Roberts, Environmental Activist
It all started with an episode of Oprah in 2009.
Ten-year-old Chad Roberts was watching an Earth Day special about ocean pollution when he should have been doing homework. The images on the screen horrified Chad. Trash littering the coasts. A floating ocean garbage dump measured by some as twice
the size of Texas swirling in between California and Hawaii—in some places, as deep as 90 feet. Turtles, whales, and sea gulls getting caught in trash
vortexes, choking on bottle caps and plastic bags.
“I thought it was really sad,” says Chad, who is now 12. “There are literally tons and tons of trash in the ocean. I just wanted to help in some way, to get some of the trash out of the oceans. It seemed like the right thing to do.”
Chad decided to tackle one of the ocean’s big problems—plastic bags that don’t degrade like natural materials do. He went to a City Council meeting in his home town of San
Clemente, California, and he made a proposal to city officials: ban plastic bags. He cited some of his research, including the fact that 100 billion plastic bags are used each year in the United States alone. Chad’s suggestion? Start by charging people 25 cents a plastic bag at grocery stores and retailers to encourage the use of reusable bags.
- Chad lobbying for a cleaner Earth
The facts are disturbing but true. When people litter plastic bags or they’re not
recycled or put into a trash can, they can blow across the country or make
their way into drains and sewage systems. Then, they end up in our oceans, where birds and marine life often accidentally eat them and die. And because plastic bags are not biodegradable, they can pollute our environment for hundreds of years. In fact, plastic bags photodegrade, which means they eventually break down into small, toxic petro-polymers.
After going to the City Council, Chad also paid a visit to the editor of his city’s newspaper, the San Clemente Sun Post News, and asked if he could start writing articles about green living. The editor gladly agreed, and Chad landed a monthly column, where he writes about protecting the environment, reusable and green products, and more.
Chad believes in his cause so much that he uses his own money to buy reusable bags and hand them out around town. On Christmas Eve last year, he hung out outside of Albertsons and handed out cloth bags to shoppers. “Some people come up and say,
‘Hey, aren’t you that kid who writes that column?’ when they see me around,”
Chad says. “I like hearing when people say they use reusable bags because of
me. I do think adults listen to you when you’re a kid. How many kids show up at
City Council meetings with an argument on getting rid of plastic bags?”
Chad says there are five simple things any person can do to have a positive impact on the
1. Don’t litter. Ever!
2. Recycle anything and everything you can. (It’s easier to do when you have a “recycle can” next to the trash can in your house.)
3. Use green cleaning products made of plants, not chemicals.
4. Don’t wash your car with a hose. Instead, find a waterless carwash.
5. Think about your environment!
“A lot of people and businesses are going green now, so I think we’re taking the right steps,” Chad says. “But we can always do more. I want to keep doing this to encourage others to be green.”
Chad’s other passions include fencing and acting, which he pursues in his free time. He hopes to one day follow in the footsteps of actor/activist Ed Begley, Jr., whom he met at the Go Green Expo in Los Angeles in 2010.
Here are a few great websites for kids who want to learn more about preserving the world’s environment:
June 1st, 2011
Jordan Martin, Recycling Queen
- Jordan composting at home
“I usually like big responsibilities,” says nine-year-old Jordan Martin of running for secretary of her elementary school, located outside Washington D.C. Although Jordan’s school claimed to be “green,” Jordan had discovered in second grade something disturbing: her school didn’t recycle. When she ran for secretary, Jordan decided on the campaign theme, “Recycle Startin’ with Martin,” and she shared with her classmates her vision to make the school more environmentally friendly.
“Our teachers didn’t even have recycling bins in their classrooms,” Jordan says. “You’re supposed to reduce, recycle, and reuse in our country, so I thought, why not help everyone at my school get into the habit of doing that?” Even though Jordan didn’t win the election, she did become a class representative and decided she would put recycling into action anyway.
Jordan went to the school art director to discuss a plan to have every classroom decorate their own class recycling bin. She met with the maintenance crew to make a plan to get a huge recycling bin for outside and to get the trash company to pick it up once a week. And she helped start Green Club, which monitors the recycling program.
Living green is nothing new for Jordan. After all, her dad is a special agent for the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington D.C. His job is to protect the environment by enforcing the country’s environmental laws. “I felt like if I didn’t start this, then nobody would and we’d all just keep throwing our recyclables into the trash,” said Jordan. “That wasn’t okay with me.”
At home, Jordan makes sure her entire family lives green by recycling everything they can, composting any leftover fruits and vegetables, and gardening (and eating their tasty homegrown foods). “We’re big recyclers at my house,” says Jordan. “It’s easy to do and it helps the earth. And I don’t think anybody really wants more trees to be cut down.”
At school, you can often find Jordan riding around on a John Deere Gator collecting recycling bins and emptying them in the outside container. She keeps busy with her class representative responsibilities and Green Club meetings every Friday. And she’s always looking for new ways to recycle at school, like creating additional bins for the art room for all the paper scraps and other leftover art materials.
“I hope I can get every single person in my school to recycle everywhere they go,” says Jordan. “Our environment will not stay clean if we don’t.”
How can you be more green like Jordan? Visit the National Geographic website for great green tips. Join the EPA’s Environmental Kids Club. Or talk to your teacher or principal about ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle at your school.
May 10th, 2011
It’s been a little hectic this month, so I am taking a short break to focus on several Voice projects and to work on other children’s writing (and of course, hang out with my own two inspiring kids). I have several new children’s magazine articles coming out this summer and fall, which I’ll add to my Children’s Writing page when they are available!
Don’t worry–I’ve got several great kids lined up for the rest of the year and I’m excited to introduce you to some very inspiring young people who are doing great things.
As always, I take nominations, so if you know a kid who is doing something neat, please contact me.
Enjoy the month of showers and flowers! (Here in Colorado, it’s been more showers than flowers…)