Kennedy is not only a second grader from Newbury Park, CA, but she is also proud to be a Friendly Neighborhood Helper. Friendly Neighborhood Helpers is a 501(c)(3) charity that she conceived in order to help kids help others, through art. Kennedy is also my daughter.
Last spring, Kennedy was concerned about news regarding the gulf oil spill and wanted to do something to help. She drew a picture of the Earth and told me that she wanted to make copies, which she would sell to raise money to help clean up the oil spill, in addition to assisting other charities and her school. She also wanted to invite her friends to do the same; together, they all could help. Think: lemonade stand-meets-art gallery.
It is such a simple idea, but one that was very touching to see, a child wanting to help her community and the world by doing what she does best -- drawing pictures. The artwork is the type found on any family's refrigerator, but the gesture is that of angels. It was so moving that my wife and I decided to help bring Kennedy's idea to a larger audience. Working together, we developed the business plan, filed for charity status, and began development on FriendlyNeighborhoodHelpers.org. Kennedy inspired the concept, developed the logo, named the organization (after a play in which she performed in Kindergarten), and has been involved every step of the way. About the concept: a student (K-12) uploads artwork to the site, people purchase the artwork in a variety of mediums (shirts, mugs, stickers, framed art, etc.), and all of the proceeds are divided among the student's school and a charity selected by the student.
Friendly Neighborhood Helpers launched in December, and everyone is excited to see it come to life for a variety of reasons. First, it was started by a student for students. Kids like helping other kids. But more importantly, kids like to feel like they are part of something bigger, and Kennedy's nonprofit gives them that ability. Secondly, it turns out that we are one of the few nonprofit fundraisers. Most fundraising companies are in business to profit from fundraising, but we're not. This means that we can stay true to Kennedy's vision of maximizing the help given to schools and other charities. Ironically, our methods have a lot of other people thinking about where else nonprofits can shift the paradigm in philanthropic efforts. Lastly, this is an easy and constructive outlet for kids, allowing them to help and get involved. Not only are they helping their schools, but they are also assisting a variety of highly rated and respected charities that are devoted to the concerns of underprivileged children, the environment, animals of all kinds, and more.
"I hope that other kids will get involved. It's so easy to do, and we all like drawing pictures," said Kennedy. She's very proud of what she's started and loves to see not only her art on the site, but also the art of her friends and people she doesn't even know.
We are also hoping that we can inspire other kids and families to act on the things that move them. While this concept was Kennedy's inspiration, we know that thousands of other kids have equally inspirational ideas that need just a little nurturing to get them off the ground. Imagine the transformations to our society if we teach our kids that there is no limit to their ideas and that all it takes is a little effort to make them come to life? That's a society I'd like to be apart of.
How you can get involved:
If you are a K-12 student, go to www.friendlyneighborhoodhelpers.org and start uploading your artwork. Once your artwork is in the gallery, share it with your family and friends.
If you are a school and would like to promote Friendly Neighborhood Helpers, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll help you get it going at your school.
If you are a charity and would like to be part of our select list of charities, send us information about your organization and we can discuss making you a Friendly Neighborhood Helper.
If you are someone who would just like to make a donation to help us further our cause, you can make a donation at friendlyneighborhoodhelpers.org/donate.cfm