Twelve Young Leaders Named 2009 Huggable Heroes in Build-A-Bear Workshop Community Service Program
Honorary Judge, Gwen Ifill, Helps Make Final Selection
St. Louis --(BUSINESS WIRE)-- After months of careful and difficult deliberation by evaluators, including honorary judge, Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week" and senior correspondent for "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS, twelve young leaders from the United States and Canada have risen through the ranks to become the 2009 Huggable Heroes®. Build-A-Bear Workshop® received approximately 900 entries for its sixth annual search rewarding youth for their outstanding acts of generosity, volunteerism and leadership.
"It is wonderful and inspiring to see our young people accepting the challenge to take charge and make a difference," said Gwen Ifill, honorary judge. "I was impressed by the contributions each and every one of them is making to our world."
This year's class of Huggable Heroes, ranging in age from seven to 18, is elevating the bar on giving. Collectively, these dedicated young people have raised funds and collected items valued at $16 million and have done all this by volunteering more than 6,000 hours of their time throughout the year, and the numbers keep rising. The Huggable Heroes' stories range from helping animals and combating hunger, to supporting military troops, raising funds and awareness for medical conditions and disabilities, and helping children, countries and communities in need. And, for the first time in the program's history, the 2009 class sees its first brother and sister duo as individual winners for the same project.
The Huggable Heroes will travel to the Build-A-Bear Workshop World Bearquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, from July 22-24, to meet each other and celebrate, participate in leadership opportunities and share their stories. Each Huggable Hero will receive $10,000 USD ($7,500 USD in the form of an educational scholarship and $2,500 USD from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation to be donated to the 501(c)(3) charity of the hero's choice).
"We look forward to meeting and learning from this year's group of Huggable Heroes," said Maxine Clark, Build-A-Bear Workshop founder and chief executive bear. "I believe these young people are our future leaders. They demonstrate the kindness and compassion this world needs to become a better place. We hope others find inspiration in their stories and are motivated to do something positive as a result."
2009 Huggable Heroes' Stories
Mimi Ausland, 12, Bend, OR
Created two Websites to help collect donations to feed homeless dogs and cats in animal shelters across the country.
Brittany Bergquist, 18, Norwell, MA
Co-founder with her brother of "Cell Phones for Soldiers" which collects used cell phones and with the funds raised from the recycling of the phones, buys prepaid calling cards to send to military troops.
Robbie Bergquist, 17, Norwell, MA
Co-founder with his sister of "Cell Phones for Soldiers" which collects used cell phones and with the funds raised from the recycling of the phones, buys prepaid calling cards to send to military troops.
Christine Crowe, 13, London, ON
Started "Chunity" which comes from the words children+unity to raise funds for her local children's hospital, local women's shelters and to help the homeless.
Kendall Ciesemier, 16, Wheaton, IL
Started "Kids Caring 4 Kids" to inspire kids to care about others in need and channels the funds raised through the organization to projects that help improve the lives of highly vulnerable African children.
Cody McCasland, 7, Colleyville, TX
Raises awareness on the abilities of individuals with disabilities.
Patrick Pedraja, 13, Palm Harbor, FL
Created "Driving For Donors" which aims to increase the number of people on the national marrow donor list.
Kaylee Marie Radzyminski, 17, Cleveland, TN
Started "Tunes 4 the Troops" which sends donated used and new CDs and DVDs to military troops serving in combat zones, to bring a little stress relief.
Bilaal Rajan, 12, Richmond Hill, ON
Founded "Hands for Help" to heighten awareness of youth issues and raise funds for children in need.
Jenny Silver, 12, Cherry Hill, NJ
Developed and runs an organization that raises money to provide teddy bears to children in need during the holidays.
Katie Stagliano, 10, Summerville, SC
Created "Launch Katie's Dream" to help make sure no child goes hungry.
Max Wallack, 12, Natick, MA
Founded PuzzlesToRemember, which collects and distributes puzzles to help Alzheimer's and dementia patients.
Huggable Heroes Program Background
In 2004, Build-A-Bear Workshop® launched the Huggable Heroes® program, each year searching for and recognizing young people making a difference in their communities and/or worldwide. Huggable Heroes are young leaders who demonstrate strong levels of kindness, compassion and leadership to help make the world a better place.
From January 16 through February 27, 2009, Build-A-Bear Workshop accepted nominations for Huggable Heroes. Hundreds of young leaders were nominated for their volunteer and community service efforts. Entries were narrowed down to a field of 208 semi-finalists, 50 finalists and ultimately these twelve Huggable Heroes.
About Build-A-Bear Workshop®
Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc. is the leading and only global company that offers an interactive make-your-own stuffed animal retail-entertainment experience. Founded in 1997, the company and its franchisees currently operate more than 400 Build-A-Bear Workshop® stores worldwide, including company-owned stores in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland and France, and franchise stores in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. In 2007, the interactive experience was enhanced - all the way to CyBEAR™ space - with the launch of buildabearville.com®, the company's virtual world stuffed with fun. The company was named to the 2009 FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® list.
Build-A-Bear Workshop (NYSE: BBW) posted total revenue of $468 million in fiscal 2008.
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