Top 11 Kids Who Made A Difference In 2011 (SLIDESHOW)
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As world leaders struggled in 2011 to save a famine-struck Africa, end the global water crisis and continue to research cures for devastating cancers, a host of young activists also stepped up. As young as 7, these young people who want to make a difference offered their insight, experience and commitment to resolving these plaguing issues. Meet 11 such budding activists who may just inspire you to help make this world a better place.
After Rachel Beckwith died from injuries sustained in a car crash near her Bellevue, Wash., home in July, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/02/in-death-rachel-beckwith-_n_916501.html" target="_hplink">news of the 9-year-old's birthday wish to raise $300 to build wells for those in need went viral.</a> Inspired donors have helped fulfill -- and surpass -- her mission by giving more than $1 million to <a href="http://www.charitywater.org/" target="_hplink">charity:water.</a> Rachel's mom will head to Africa next year with the nonprofit to see -- firsthand -- how her deceased daughter is continuing to save lives.
Though an optic nerve tumor nearly blinded Jeff Hanson, the 17-year-old hasn't let the condition interfere with his creativity or determination to help others, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/08/19/jeffhanson/index.html" target="_hplink">CNN reports.</a> Jeff started painting and crafting note cards while undergoing radiation treatment, and in the five years since his diagnosis, Jeff has donated more than $350,000 from the sale of his work to more than 50 children's health charities. To donate to Jeff's cause or purchase one of his paintings, click <a href="http://www.jeffreyowenhanson.com/index.html" target="_hplink">here.</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/18/huffpost-greatest-person-evan-moss-epilepsy_n_901987.html" target="_hplink">Seven-year-old Evan Moss</a> suffers from three to four seizures monthly, a relieving decrease from the near 400 he endured just a few years ago. To guarantee his safety, Evan's parents knew he needed a service dog, but they couldn't afford the $13,000 expense. So, Evan wrote the book <a href="https://www.createspace.com/3626033" target="_hplink">"My Seizure Dog," </a> to help raise money and also offer window into the world of a child suffering from epilepsy.
After raising $175,000 to help build 27 concrete homes in Haiti, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/14/rachel-wheeler-food-for-poor_n_1093732.html" target="_hplink">Rachel Wheeler, 12, decided to collect funds to replace a school that was destroyed in the 7.2 magnitude 2010 earthquake.</a> "I want to build a school because they need education to make their lives better so they can learn and teach their own children how to have a better life," <a href="http://www.foodforthepoor.org/newsroom/news/rachel-needs-your-help-08-10-11.html" target="_hplink">Rachel told Food For The Poor</a>, the nonprofit she's partnered with. To donate to Rachel's mission, click <a href="http://support.foodforthepoor.org/site/TR?pg=fund&fr_id=2091&pxfid=4112" target="_hplink">here.</a>
To honor his Uncle Chris, a staunch supporter of LGBTQ causes, Sam Maden, 12, was determined to get the Boston Red Sox to produce an "It Gets Better" video, <a href="http://news.change.org/stories/red-sox-announce-it-gets-better-video-against-anti-gay-bullying-joining-giants-and-cubs" target="_hplink">Change.org reported</a>. Sam got 9,000 people to sign his<a href="http://www.change.org/petitions/boston-red-sox-please-make-an-it-gets-better-video" target="_hplink"> gay rights petition</a> and the Red Sox became the third professional sports team -- in one week -- to get involved in the anti-bullying video campaign. <strong>WATCH:</strong> Sam get the honor of announcing "Play ball!" at a Red Sox game.
Taylor and Kennedy Everson
After spending the summer in Kenya, Montclair twins Taylor and Kennedy Everson decided to dedicate their ninth birthdays to raising money to adopt a village in Africa. The budding activists collected $2,650 for <a href="http://www.freethechildren.com/" target="_hplink">Free the Children</a>, the most that the organization has ever received from a children's birthday party, <a href="http://kids.baristanet.com/2011/11/montclair-girls-birthday-wish-to-raise-money-for-africa/#more-22957" target="_hplink">Baristanet reports.</a> The nonprofit helps areas in need by improving schools, health clinics and building water facilities.
To combat the schoolyard taunts, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/07/st-charles-students-time-_n_1079965.html" target="_hplink">Aria Novak started the "Time for Kind Day," to raise bullying awareness at her Illinois elementary school.</a> She now plans to expand her anti-bullying strategies to other school districts and has even contacted Michelle Obama for help in spreading the word.
To earn her Girl Scout Gold Award, Jillian McKigney, 17, <a href="http://pleasantville.patch.com/articles/lifting-spirits-one-toothbrush-at-a-time" target="_hplink">raised enough money to put together 500 toiletry kits for parents with children suffering from cancer.</a> The Ursuline School senior realized that these dutiful parents are often unable -- or unwilling -- to leave the hospital to fetch a toothbrush, soap, or lotion, to take care of their basic needs.
Peter Larson, 17, is celebrating his 12th straight year of sleeping in a cardboard box -- from November 12 through December 31 -- to raise awareness for the homeless population in his hometown of Plymouth, Minn. The teen has collected $400,000 for the homeless since he was six, <a href="https://iocp.ejoinme.org/?tabid=315840&joinme=10077" target="_hplink">he writes on his website</a>. This time around, Peter hopes to raise $100,000, enough money to house 50 families for an entire year. To support Peter's "Sleep Out," <a href="https://iocp.ejoinme.org/?tabid=315840&joinme=10077" target="_hplink">click here</a>.
McClain Hermes' dad bet that if she could collect 400 pairs of shoes to donate to charity, he would shave his head, <a href="http://dacula.patch.com/articles/donate-a-pair-of-shoes-for-the-soul" target="_hplink">Dacula Patch reported</a>. The 10-year-old completed the mission and took it one step further. McClain started her own foundation, "<a href="http://www.facebook.com/ShoesForTheSouls?sk=wall&filter=2" target="_hplink">Shoes for Souls</a>," in 2009 and has donated thousands of pairs of shoes to the <a href="http://www.atlantamission.org/" target="_hplink">Atlanta Mission Homeless Shelter.</a>
When he was just 14, Taylor Wilson, became the youngest person in the world to build a nuclear fusion reactor, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/01/living/teen-nuclear-scientist/index.html" target="_hplink">according to CNN.</a> The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Energy have encouraged him to apply a research grant and job offers have come in from defense contractors. Taylor has since built a liquid-based radiation detector, which he believes can play a critical role in the fight against terrorism. Once he secures a patent, Taylor hopes to bring his detector to Iran, North Korea, and other high-risk countries.
For more on the best of 2011, visit bestof2011.aol.com.WATCH Related Video: