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December 05th, 2009 | Author:

When I started my charity project in August to give teddy bears to kids at Rady Children’s Hospital for Christmas this year, I was hoping I would raise enough money including my own to buy 250 bears.  Things were going pretty well.  By the beginning of November, I had raised enough to buy almost 400 bears.  I was pretty happy and I knew the hospital would be too.

My plan was to tie donation tags on every bear and put each person’s name who donated money to help.   At that time, 400 bears seems liked a lot to tie on individual tags, but since we would be delivering them on December 18, we still had plenty of time.

Then the week before Thanksgiving, my project exploded!  KNSD TV (NBC) in San Diego came to my house to interview me for their news.   I had pre-ordered 100 bears so they could see what the bears were like.   I had a great time.  The very next day,MSN.com picked up my story and before long, I was receiving donations from all over the country.   With just a little over a week left to donate, things were adding up quickly.

40 boxes of bearsOnce everything was calculated, the grand total was 1800 bears. So that our entire garage wasn’t completely filled with teddy bears all at once, we ordered 1000 bears. 40 large boxes arrived on Wednesday by UPS.  I think our UPS driver was more than a little surprised when he got the order to deliver to our house.  He actually called ahead of time to make sure someone would be home which Mom and Dad appreciated.  I was excused from a school field trip on Thursday so I could start unpacking, sorting, counting, and tagging the 1000 bears that arrived.

Tying donation tags on each one went a lot faster than we had expected.  Being organized ahead of time by printing the tags, punching holes in them, cutting pieces of yarn to tie them onto the bears, and even stringing them really helped the whole process.  Of course Mom and Dad helped a lot. Otherwise, I would still be tying on tags instead of writing this blog.

We finished everything in about 6 hours.  Once all the bears were tagged, we put them in large bags, ready for delivery.

It’s a good thing we don’t have a big family because we now have very large bags and boxes of teddy bears all over our house and we still have 700 more bears to do the whole process over again next weekend.

Thank you again to everyone who donated and supported my project.  Our coordinator at Rady was amazed when we called to tell her we had a few more than our original plan of 250.  All she could say was “WOW”!

Stay tuned for my post after we deliver them.  We’re still hoping for a rental company to donate the use of a small truck for delivery.  It should be a fun job loading all of the bags and boxes in the truck but even more fun unloading them at the hospital.

November 26th, 2009 | Author:

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a project since August to raise money to buy teddy bears for kids at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, California.   My original goal was to give 250 bears to the kids for Christmas.   At the beginning of this week, I did an interview with KNSD TV (NBC) in San Diego.  After the news segment ran, MSN.com picked up the story and donations started pouring in.  Within a day, I had raised enough to buy 1700 bears!  I could hardly believe it.  Kids were donating $5 and $10, companies were donating larger amounts, and a group of three 8th grade students in Michigan donated their bake sale money.  But today, on Thanksgiving of all days, I received a special donation from three soldiers stationed in Iraq.  They read my story and decided to donate.  I was amazed but it meant even more when I received this email from one of the guys.  He gave his permission to share it on my blog.  It means a lot!

Remember to thank our military guys.


I am Staff Sergeant (name withheld for privacy reasons), curently serving in Iraq.  I saw an article about your donation of teddy bears to kids in the hospital and felt that in addition to a donation I should write you this email.



Hopefully you know already how incredible your achievments have been thus far.  The fact that you have chosen to give back to others less fortunate than yourself is what makes all of it truly extraordinary.  Your friends and family are no doubt proud of you beyond words.  I wanted you to know that others are proud of you as well.

I, as well as my fellow soldiers, are often asked why we are willing to do the things that we do.  While most everyone has a different answer, I believe I can speak for most when I say that one of the primary reasons is in order to protect the American way of life.  In this current age filled with people looking out only for themselves, or expecting things from their country that they have neither earned nor deserve, it is refreshing to see someone carving their own path while giving of themselves at the same time.

Many adults in your shoes would concentrate all of their effort into their profit margin without a thought for others less fortunate than themselves.  I can’t tell you how glad I and my teammates are to see that the American spirit is alive and well in our younger generation.  Please keep up the good work.  I will keep you and your family in my prayers.  My teammates and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.  Take care.


SSG (name withheld)
October 06th, 2009 | Author:

Free advertising?   It really does exist.  The only thing is, it takes a lot more effort and a little creativity.  You need to keep your eyes and ears open and take advantage of every opportunity.

Contests are one way to get some free advertising.   You would be surprised at how many people skip by this option for various reasons.    One of the reasons is that there are usually a lot of details to follow in order to qualify and many people just don’t want to spend the time to enter.  Another reason someone, especially a kid, may not enter is because of age restrictions.  But sometimes you have to ignore that rule and still submit your application WITH an explanation of why you’re entering even though you may be under age.

This has happened with me a lot but I don’t let that stop me.  Depending on who is sponsoring the contest and what the specific rules are is how I handle the entry form.  Sometimes I try to contact them ahead of time and ask permission to enter explaining why I think I should be allowed to.  Sometimes I just send in my entry form with the explanation attached.  Believe it or not, I haven’t been turned down yet.  And if I do get a “no”, it’s not a big deal.  There are always other contests.

The very first contest I entered was sponsored by the Young Entrepreneurs of America.  The rules clearly said you had to be 16.  I was only 11 at the time but I had had my business for about a year and a half by then.  I figured that I could go up against anyone over 16 and have just as much of a chance to win as they did.  The prize was being named “Young Entrepreneur of the Year.”  I knew if I won, that would give me some really good national recognition, especially because I was so young.

So I entered.  I filled out all the forms exactly as requested but in my essay, I explained and justified why I felt they should consider me.   The worst they could say was “no.”  After a few months, I got a big surprise.  Not only did they consider my entry but they said the judges were so impressed that they created a whole new category for kids under 16 and I was their first recipient.

There wasn’t any money attached to it, no prize, no trophy, and not even a certificate.  But the national recognition from them and what would follow was worth more than any piece of paper or statue.   Less than a year later, we got an email from Forbes saying they wanted to include me in their first Top 10 List for role models 18 & under.   They said they found me because of my Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

I’m not saying it’s easy to find contests of any sort for young entrepreneurs so sometimes you have to think outside the box.  Just this year, I found out about a contest sponsored by Intuit.  I was way too young according to the rules but I found a person to email and actually got written permission back to enter anyway.  I didn’t care if they even put me in the actual contest because they said they would at least post my information on their website which gave me a lot of exposure.

When I was a contestant on NBC’s game show ‘1 vs 100’ for their all-kid episode, I lost on the second question.  I got teased and people actually sent me nasty emails about it but the 2 minutes or so that the host, Bob Saget, talked to me on camera about my Pencil Bugs business was worth more in the long run than what the remaining kids finally won.

I also entered a contest from Kohl’s department store.  Not only did I win a college scholarship but my picture was on a huge poster in our regional stores which was pretty cool.

Free advertising?  Absolutely.  Can you afford to pay for advertising like this?  Probably not.   Remember, contests are just one way to get more exposure for your business.  It’s always worth the effort even if you don’t win.

December 20th, 2008 | Author:

Oh, what a day yesterday!   It was a long time in coming and lots to do.  While I was in school, both of my elves were working hard getting all the toys, books, and games into the 50 bags I delivered to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.

Rental van full of gift bags

Rental van full of gift bags

When it came time to load everything in the sleigh (aka my dad’s car), it didn’t all fit.  So mama elf jumped on the phone and called Enterprise Rent-a-Car.  They weren’t able to donate the use of a van but were nice enough to give us a discount.  Even with that, it was still full by the time we got the 50 individual bags for the kids and the six extra large bags filled with toys and games for the community playroom at the hospital.

I had a short day at school so by lunch, we were off to San Diego.   When we got there, a camera woman from the local NBC station was waiting for me.   Since I was invited to be on the 4:30pm news, they wanted to film a few minutes of me with all the toys.

Oops, I blinked!

Oops, I blinked!

The people at Rady are so grateful that I’ve chosen them to support with my donations that the coordinator, Shelley Borree, presented me with an Appreciation Certificate.  I was really surprised but I can’t take all the credit.   There were many people who were generous and donated their own products to help with this project.  They are all listed on my website so please take a look.

I didn’t have a chance to meet the kids in the hospital this time but I really hope my gift bags help them have a nice holiday season and maybe make their time in the hospital not quite so bad.

After we unloaded everything from the van, we had a little time until I was supposed to be at the TV station.  We walked around the 5-story mall they have downtown near the studio and got lost many times since it was so big.  Right across the street and next to the studio was an ice rink which was cool!  Literally! 🙂


Finally it was time to check it with the news producer.  I was a little nervous since it was the first time on live TV but it went very well and amazingly enough, a 3-minute interview goes by pretty fast even if you’re nervous.

A HUGE thank you again to everyone who donated to help make Christmas in the hospital a bit more enjoyable for a lot of kids this year.

December 12th, 2008 | Author:

After school today, my parents and I spent about an hour and a half shopping at Target.  We bought lots of toys and goodies for my gift bag project for Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.   The shopping cart was chuck full and it made us feel a little weird knowing that lots of people don’t even have jobs this year.  But at least we knew the gifts are going for kids who are in the hospital during Christmas this year and maybe getting a bagful of fun things might make their time in the hospital not quite so bad.

I’ll be going down to San Diego on Dec. 19 to deliver all of the bags.  There is so much stuff, we’re getting worried that my dad’s car might not hold all of the bags.  I have 50 bags but we also have a bunch of other things like board games and toys for their community playroom that all the kids can use.  My mom said we might have to rent a small pickup or something just to get everything down there in one trip.

Then after I play Santa at the hospital, the NBC station in San Diego (KNSD 39) has invited me to be on their 4pm news.  I hope lots of people watch and maybe if they can donate even just a little to some charity, then it’s worth it.  Even the smallest thing can make a difference in someone else’s life.  You just never know.