I had the sincere pleasure of learning about Kids Are Heroes from Dabney Porte on Twitter. After following the nonprofit organization and learning about the amazing things they do, I have become a huge supporter.
Now I would like to share with you an interview I did with Gabe O’ Neil who is the father of the 12 year old girl that had a dream.
As we all know, it was your daughter’s dream to start Kids Are Heroes. Can you tell us what inspired her to do so?
In February of 2008 she came to me and asked me to build her a website. She wanted to help animals, because she had learned in science class about all the endangered species facing our planet today. I agreed except I said why stop at animals — let’s see if we can help people and the environment as well. At about the same time we heard about some amazing children who were helping people so we thought it might be a good way to inspire other kids to volunteer by recognizing the efforts of the ones making a difference. Mary Margaret got started and drew the logo (which still stands as our logo today). We had business meetings about what was going to be on the website. It was a lot of fun working together, and still is.
When did the non profit organization start?
It wasn’t until two years later, in March of 2010 when our non-profit status became official. We had been trying to decide the best way of delivering our message. In the beginning we weren’t sure how well it would be received. I wanted to make sure that it was something that would interest others before we invested the money and the effort to incorporate and turn it into a non-profit. Sure enough, people really seemed to like what we were doing so we went ahead with our plans to become a non-profit company.
What is the vision of Kids Are Heroes and what direction do you attend to take in the years to come?
In our three years of existence so far we have learned quite a bit about what volunteerism and giving back does to the growth of children. MaryMargaret and the other children are being shaped into compassionate leaders. They learn so much from this activity. MaryMargaret has been interviewed so many times on radio and TV that it is really helping her speaking skills. She also has no problem speaking in front of crowds, both young and old. These are great life skills to have and I see how these kids are developing them at an early age. Our vision is to create a generational shift where volunteerism is looked at as a normal part of child development not only in this country, but in others as well. I hope in the future we can be self-funded by the sale of Kids Are Heroes® promotional items. I want a mother to pick up a Kids Are Heroes backpack in Walmart one day and buy it for her child because she loves what it stands for. We want to continue hosting events for these kids as it is so important to get them together. We are helping these future leaders build a strong network early.
I understand there is a tweetup soon to benefit Kids Are Heroes. How are you taking part in the event and how can others show support?
Yes the tweetup is on May 21st and is being held close to Baltimore. Former NFL player Levar Fisher will be featured and we will also have recording artist Mark McKay there. It promises to be a great way to build your network of wonderful social media engagers, as we are pulling noteworthy people from Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other outlying areas. We will be there as guests of Dabney Porte from Social Marketing Concepts as this tweetup is her brainchild. It really is going to be an amazing event. We are looking for corporate sponsors to help feed our guests, as well as people to come to the event. The unique thing about the tweetup is how the tickets work. We have set up a donor wall that will be heavily promoted up until the event. This encourages people to get their tickets early, so they can be promoted longer. The donation comes with a “brick” on the donor wall that can be one of two sizes or values: $35 or $20. Either denomination will get you into the event but the $35 brick will give you better visibility. The bricks have your picture on them, some text and a link back to your website. Between @DabneyPote and @KidsAreHeroes we have more than 45,000 Twitter followers who we invite to the wall on a regular basis. You just can’t get any advertising anywhere that will gain you that many impressions for such a small amount of money. So even if the tweetup is too far away for some they can get great promotion for themselves just by donating a square. More information about the event itself is at http://tweetup.kidsareheroes.org and the donor wall is at http://tweetup.kidsareheroes.org/wall.php
Is Kids Are Heroes active on social media outlets? If so, which ones?
Yes we are now very active in social media and have been for quite a while. For the first six months or so we would scour the local newspapers to find out about kids doing amazing things. I asked the advice of a friend on how we could deliver our message in a more efficient way. Without hesitation he said Facebook and Twitter. We embraced Twitter right away in December of 2008. It wasn’t until mid-2009 that we really started to use Facebook as that was about the time they came up with their fan page concept. We use both platforms on a regular basis and we have a Youtube channel as well:
We have found that our social media efforts have paid us back in spades. We have met so many wonderful people along the way who have helped us in so many different ways. Now we regularly receive stories about kids in our Twitter mentions folder. I can say that the time we have invested in social media has been the major reason why we have come so far in three short years. We are so looking forward to seeing what happens next.