Most children grow up doing what many children do - such as playing with their friends, playing with their toys, or going outside and having a good time. This may not always be the case for every child, after all, it’s not a perfect world. There are too many things taken for granted every day; even as adults, we don’t always realize that. Sometimes it may take a small growing mind to realize something that was staring us right in the face all along. It could be a child who realizes the importance of a toy, a pair of glasses, or even what clean water means to another child.
We live in a big world filled with so many people, so it could be hard to believe in the impact one person can have. It could be the smallest act of kindness that may turn into something so much bigger than anyone ever intended it to be. For all I know, maybe that coat I donated last winter went to someone that was freezing every time they went outside.
No matter how big or small, and act of kindness is always a good thing.
The same thing can be said about bad choices. The negative things we do could also impact a person’s life; maybe that person you just yelled at in traffic is negatively impacted, and they negatively impact someone else’s life. It’s a chain reaction. A person could do something negative which may impact generations to come.
Sometimes innocent, and not so innocent, children are the ones who make an impact in this world. Here are 15 children who changed the world.
15 Ryan Hreljac - Ryan’s Well Foundation
Ryan Hreljac was just six years old when he realized the importance of clean water for people. Ryan’s first-grade teacher explained to his class how important water is and how many people don’t have access to clean water. She told them how there are many people in Africa in need of wells and clean water and without it, they can become sick or even worse, they can perish. He started doing extra chores around the house to earn money. He also turned to his community to help raise money.
Ryan was very persistent and determined to help provide clean water for people in Africa. In 1999, he raised enough money to provide his first well. He sent the money to a non-profit organization and drilled a well with the funds that he raised. Ryan did not stop there; he wanted to help as many people as possible. He started the Ryan’s Well Foundation, with the support of his family, which provides access to clean water to over 16 countries. Ryan, who is now an adult, was truly one amazing kid!
14 Willie Bosket Jr. - Like Father Like Son
William James “Willie” Bosket Jr. changed the way juveniles were prosecuted. Before he was even born, his father was sentenced to life in prison for taking the lives of two individuals, and his mother wanted nothing to do with him. Willie had become known as a violent child. He had even told authorities that he wanted to be just like his father. From the age of 9, he was in and out of youth rehabilitation centers.
Willie kept true to his word and followed right in his father’s footsteps. He also took the lives of two individuals in March 1978. He was arrested, and during his trial, he even pled guilty. He was only sentenced to five years at Goshen Youth Center. In the end, the New York Governor, who first opposed trying children as adults, had read over Willie’s case and quickly changed his mind. That’s when the Juvenile Offenders Act of 1978 was born which allowed children who were as young as 13 to be tried as an adult for crimes such as murder. This changed the lives of future generations to come.
13 Alex Scott - Fighting Neuroblastoma Cancer
Alexandra “Alex” Scott was born on January 18, 1996, in Manchester, Connecticut. Alex was diagnosed with a type of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma before she even turned one. Alex’s parents, Liz and Jay Scott, had received the devastating news on her very first birthday and was told that she would never be able to move her legs or walk again. About two weeks later, Alex had proved everyone wrong with a small twitch of her legs, and by the time she was two, she began to crawl, and later was able to walk.
By the time Alex was three, she and her family found out that the tumors were back, and when she turned four she received a stem cell transplant. She told her mother that she wanted to make a lemonade stand so she could give the doctors money to help find a cure for other children like her. Alex raised $2,000 her first year. Sadly, Alex passed away in 2004, by then she had raised more than $1 million. Supporters around the world continued Alex’s legacy, which is known as Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
12 Louis Braille - A New Way To Read
Louis Braille was a boy from a small town near Paris. He became blind when he was three due to an accident. He was having trouble learning because the teachers would talk to the students, which was not very productive for their young learning minds. The school only had 14 books for them, which had huge raised letters; Louis found this difficult to determine each letter.
In 1821, a soldier named Charles Barbier came to his school and shared his invention with the children. It was called “night writing”, which was a special code that contained 12 raised dots to share secret information on the battlefield without having to speak. This was too difficult for soldiers to understand, but this gave Louis a bright idea that would change the world forever. Louis tried different variations and came up with a 6 dot system. He published his first book when he was 15-years-old. Unfortunately, at the time people were hesitant to teach this. Braille wasn’t taught until after his passing, but his legacy still lives on to this day.
11 Megan Kanka - Megan’s Law Of Registering Predators
Megan Kanka’s story is a positive change that was made, but sadly, it was made after her own life was taken. Megan was outside of her home in New Jersey, riding her bike when she went missing. Her parents found her bike out front of their home and began to worry. They immediately started to search for her. She was found the next day, but unfortunately, it was too late for Megan. She was lured into a neighbor's house across the street, where he assaulted her and took her life.
Jesse Timmendequas, who had two previous convictions for assaulting young girls, confessed to the horrific crime. Megan’s parents learned about his past and believed they would have been able to protect her if they knew of his past beforehand. Her parents lobbied state legislators to enact a new law. Megan’s Law was created; which made anyone who was convicted of a sex crime against a child register immediately after being released. This registry is made public and is easily accessible online. It may have been too late for Megan, but hopefully, her law can help others.
10 Anne Frank - The Diary That Touched Us All
Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank lived from June 12, 1929, until her untimely demise in March 1945. She was a Jewish victim who was born in Germany in the World War II era. Anne and her family fled from Germany to avoid the Nazi’s who were persecuting Jews. Shortly after, she and her family went to Amsterdam and had to go into hiding for two long years.The Frank family was among the unfortunate ones of the Holocaust. They went into hiding in July 1942, for two years in a cramped attic. The tiny space became ever more cramped when another family had joined the Franks in hiding.
Anne had referred to the attic as being the Secret Annex, which was where a total of eight people had resided in that single space. Unfortunately, on August 4, 1944, Anne, along with the seven others who cohabitated together, had been captured by the Gestapo after being in hiding for 25 long months. Anne’s diary had been found and displayed for the world to see the truth about what life was like during Hitler’s reign. Anne’s diary was originally published in 1947, just two years after she had passed on.
9 Easton LaChapelle - Affordable Prosthetics
Easton LaChapelle always had an interest in building things and taking them apart. When he was just 14-years-old, he built his first robotic hand. In 2011 he won third place at the Colorado State Science Fair for his robotic hand. He may not have won first place, but this science fair changed his life. He met a young girl there that had a prosthetic limb. Her prosthetic limb was extremely expensive, with poor quality, and even worse, it would need to be replaced as she grew. Easton was inspired to invent a prosthetic that would cost under $1000.
Easton immediately went to work on his new invention. It took him several years, but with determination, he succeeded. He used 3D printing technology and developed a prosthetic arm and hand that is fully functional. He even kept true to his word and made sure that it was affordable; his prototype cost only $350 to produce. To top things off, he made the design accessible for anyone to download online, free of charge. Easton said, “No one person can change the world.” He made this true by sharing his invention with the world. Easton is truly inspiring!
8 Mary Grace Henry - Headbands For Education
Mary Grace Henry, a New York native, asked her parents for a sewing machine one year with one goal in mind; she wanted to make headbands to help fund one girl’s education who was living in Africa. By the time Mary was 17-years-old, she had accomplished amazing things. She was able to help 45 young women who were poverty-stricken receive an education. She has managed to sell 11,000 headbands.
Mary is the founder of an organization by the name of Reverse The Course, which makes the headbands that help these young women. Amazingly, 100 percent of the profits completely go toward the opportunities for education. The thing that inspired Mary to start this business in the first place came from learning about childhood marriages in developing countries. What she was also taught, was that when these young women receive an education, they are less likely to be married off at such a young age. On November 6, 2014, Mary was awarded the honor of receiving the World of Children Award.
7 Yash Gupta - Sight Learning
Yash Gupta has been wearing glasses since he was a young boy. One day when he was a high school student, he broke his glasses. He had to wait about a week for his new glasses; this helped him to appreciate the value of eyeglasses. He realized how important eyeglasses were for his education because without them it was very difficult to see during class. He started researching the subject and learned that there were millions of children who suffered from this problem because they could not afford glasses.
Yash read that millions of eyeglasses were thrown away each year and this inspired his idea that these glasses could be used for children who need them. Many of his own family members rely on eyeglasses, so he looked around his home and found about fifteen pairs that were not being used. He started Sight Learning in 2010; an organization that collects used eyeglasses and donates them to children in need. He has helped collect nearly 50,000 pairs of glasses and raised almost 2 million dollars. He also travels to many places to bring the donated eyeglasses and assist at the eye clinics.
6 Nkosi Johnson - Nkosi’s Haven
Xolani “Nkosi” Johnson was born with HIV on February 4, 1989, in South Africa. The virus had been passed to him from his mother, Nonhlanhla “Daphne” Nkosi, at birth. Generally, children who are born with HIV do not make it past their second birthday, but Nkosi proved them wrong. When Nkosi and Daphne were admitted into the Johannesburg AIDS care center, they came across a volunteer worker by the name of Gail Johnson, who, after talking with Daphne, ultimately became Nkosi’s foster mother.
In 1997 when Gail tried to enroll Nkosi in school, he was denied because of his illness. Gail went public, and soon enough Nkosi was enrolled in school. Nkosi had become a National icon to help with AIDS awareness and de-stigmatization. In July 2000, Nkosi gave a truly moving speech at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban to 10,000 people. Sadly, Nkosi passed away on June 1, 2001. He had achieved so much and made so much headway in his short life for what he truly believed in. He is remembered through Nkosi’s Haven, which helps get care, amongst other things, for people living with this disease.
5 King Tut - The Forgotten King
King Tutankhamun, better known as King Tut, was the 12th pharaoh of the 18th Egyptian Dynasty. He ruled approximately between 1332 to 1323 B.C.E. King Tut passed away at the young age of 19-years-old and had practically been forgotten until 1922 when his tomb had been discovered. Discovering the tomb led us down the path of gaining even more knowledge about the young King’s life and times.
It goes beyond just discovering King Tut’s resting space because his mummified remains were also found. His body had been very well preserved for being over 3,000 years old. Research that had been performed in 2006 on King Tut’s remains suggest that he had perished from gangrene. However, down the road, in 2010 it was discovered that he also had malaria and was disabled. During his reign, he fought to bring order to the mess that his father had created before him. He also worked to restore relations between ancient Egypt's neighbors. King Tut's sought-after change along with his tomb and remains taught us more about this period that we ever could have imagined.
4 Claudette Colvin - Making A Change
Claudette Colvin’s name is not widely known as it should be. She did the very same thing as Rosa Parks; she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person, a whole nine months before Rosa Parks. When she was 15-years-old, she was in class, and they started talking about the injustices that they were forced to live with daily. Claudette knew life was unfair and that there needed to be changes made.
Claudette left school that day and got on the bus just like any other day, but that day was far from it. She sat in her seat, and when the bus driver ordered her to get up, she refused. She simply explained to the bus driver that she paid her fare and it was her right to sit there. She stayed firmly in her seat until two police officers arrested her. There were a few articles published about her at the time, which helped motivate others to stand up for their rights.
3 Joan Of Arc - Saving France
Jeanne d’Arc or better known as Joan of Arc was born around 1412 in northeastern France. Her mother taught her the teachings of the Catholic Church, which Joan grew to love. When she was 13-years-old, she began to hear voices and having visions; which she believed were sent from God, giving her a mission. Her mission was to save France and to instill Charles as the rightful King.
Her first task was to meet with Robert de Baudricourt, but he was hesitant to meet with her because he did not believe she could save France. He finally agreed and dressed casually among other people, and Joan correctly identified him, although she had never met him. This sparked his interest. They had a private conversation, and she revealed a prayer of his that only God could have known. He gave her the opportunity to help fight and save France. She was able to fulfill her mission and thousands of years later she is still remembered for her heroic efforts.
2 Malala Yousafzai - Education For Girls
Malala Yousafzai was born in Mingora, Pakistan on July 12, 1997. This included making sure his daughter received an education. Mala grew up in Swat Valley, and in 2007 the Taliban militants gained control of the valley. They placed a ban on television, music, and other things. People caught breaking the rules were punished harshly with things like public executions. In 2008, girls had been banned from attending school. Malala began going by the alias Gul Makai to protect her identity while she blogged for BBC about life under the Taliban.
From May to October 2009, a war broke out in Swat and Malala and her family were forced to evacuate from their beloved home. During this time, the New York Times created a documentary on Malala and her father in regards to her blog and her fight to try to help girls receive an education. By November 2011, the Taliban were forced to leave Swat and schools reopened for girls. Malala went on to receive Pakistan's National Youth Peace Prize. The UN has declared July 12, “Malala Day.”
1 Riley Hebbard - Riley’s Toys Foundation
When Riley Hebbard was only four years old she watched the Today show with her mother; it featured children in a refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan. She noticed the children were playing in the dirt with rocks and that they didn’t have any toys. She gathered toys around her home and wanted to send them to the children. Her mother, Rhonda, sent a letter around Riley’s preschool asking for more toy donations. World Vision received a copy of the letter and called Rhonda; they offered to send the donated toys to Africa.
Riley’s Toy Foundation began, and it has donated more than 18,000 toys to orphaned children in Africa. They have ten distribution centers and hope to expand. World Vision sends a truck every couple of months to pick up the toys and covers the shipping costs. Riley was invited to the 10th annual Art of Giving benefit in New York City. She received an award in 2011 for the Hasbro Community Action Hero. She has a very big heart for such a little girl.
Sources: ryanswell.ca, myhero.com, braillebug.afb.org, biography.com, huffingtonpost.com, cnn.com, sightlearning.com, history.com, npr.org, pennlive.com, nytimes.com, alexslemonade.org, malala.org