By Nora Heston Tarte

Our state’s youngest residents are giving back to their communities through a myriad of charity efforts. Whether their passions lie in helping the hungry, advocating for animals or reaching out to other kids in need, they are trading birthday gifts for donations and creating their own charities before they are even old enough to drive. Meet three amazing local kids who are helping out their communities one family, person or animal at a time.

Connor Moreton, age 8

Connor wants to end world hunger. That’s a big feat for such a young man, but he’s already taking steps to help hungry families in his neighborhood.

“I really wish stores were free so everyone would be able to eat,” he says. “I am never hungry and wanted to try to help others never be hungry too.” For his eighth birthday, Connor asked party guests to bring food items to be donated to St. Mary’s Food Bank instead of gifts. Connor’s mother, Suzanne, says she steered him in the direction of donating locally. His first vision for his birthday fundraiser was to send food overseas, but he changed his mind after Suzanne explained to him that their were hungry people right here in Arizona.

So, why host a food drive? A 2013 church event gave him the idea. As a family, the Moretons purchased food to donate to children who wouldn’t otherwise eat over winter break.

“At first neither kid completely understood the concept of not having food readily available, so it was a great opportunity as a family to learn more about the need in our state,” Suzanne says. “The fact that some children’s only meal is at school really made us all sad but Connor, I think because he is older, understood the severity of it. From that moment he really wanted to do more.”

In addition to his efforts with the food bank, Connor is part of the Kids Care Club at Challenge Charter School in Glendale and participates in charity efforts at his church.

“It is important for children to get involved in charity at a young age because it builds a lifelong foundation and passion for helping others in need,” Suzanne adds. “If we all helped just a little it makes the world a more hopeful place.”

In addition to continuing work with the food bank, Connor has an interest in helping U.S. soldiers.

Charlotte Gould, age 6
Charlotte was born with a cleft palate. When she went home from the hospital, she was given a stuffed bear with stitches on its face purchased from the Cleft Palate Foundation.
“It has traveled back and forth from the hospital for all four of Charlotte’s surgeries and is snuggled each and every night,” Nicole Gould says of her daughter’s bear.

After her own experiences, Charlotte decided she wanted all little kids who had to have a cleft palate surgery like her to have their own special bear with stitches.
“Surgeries are scary and [stuffed] bears are not!” Charlotte says. “I was born special with a small part of my lip and mouth missing and I got a special bear. Other babies are born the same way. They need a bear of their own to hug and keep them brave.”

To get started, Charlotte requested donations in lieu of birthday gifts. Thanks to friends, family members and other donations, Charlotte’s family purchased more than 100 bears for local newborns.

The bears, which are appropriately named ‘Charley,’ are placed inside of reusable totes featuring the Charley Bear Hug Logo, along with brochures from the Cleft Palate Foundation, clinic information from Barrow Cleft & Craniofacial Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix and a welcome letter to the clinic from the family.

As a volunteer at the Center, Nicole says that she personally gets to hand out many of the bears to new and expecting mothers. “As a mother that received news of a birth defect at a 20 week ultrasound, I know first-hand how essential, important and comforting it is to receive accurate medical and treatment information, as well as a warm smile or hug from someone who has been through the process,” she explains.

So what’s next for the Charley Bear Hug Program?

“As Charlotte continues to grow and celebrate birthdays, we plan on purchasing more and more bears,” Nicole says, adding that during the program’s first year the family was able to provide each new patient at the Center with a bear.

To donate, visit supportbarrow.org and specify that you would like to donate to the Charley Bear Hug Program. To buy your own Cleftline Bear, visit www.cleftline.org/cleftline-bears. Participants can specify their donation be sent in Charlotte’s honor to the Center.

Megan Hansen, age 14

Megan is passionate about animals. Since she was 8 years old, she has been raising money to help animals in need through programs such as Humane Lemonade, where she sold lemonade to benefit the Humane Society; Lost Our Home Pet Foundation, where she played with and trained displaced dogs; Caring Hearts for the Homeless and their Pets, where she volunteers weekly; and the Human Society Telethon and garage sales, which she hosted herself to benefit horses and homeless animals.

Megan, who is vocal about the importance of adopting animals as opposed to buying them, rescued her own family’s dog, Buddy, and trained him. Buddy used to belong to a homeless man and was allegedly thrown out of a truck. She has even started her own fundraiser in his name called Buddy’s Angels.

“The fundraiser is to help pets like Buddy that are homeless to make them adoptable,” she says. “My ultimate fundraising goals are to be able to help as many animals as I can. I want to be able to make a difference in the number of pets that are taken to the shelter. I want to lower the number of pets that are euthanized.”

Megan’s mother, Petra, credits the Girl Scouts for helping her daughter get involved in fundraising as well as their trips together to volunteer at the animal shelter. Megan also helps with Petra’s business, FUNnecting, working events, collecting donations and assisting with other aspects of the business.

“It’s important to volunteer at a young age because it teaches compassion,” Petra affirms.

“I focus heavily on giving back to animals because they don’t have a voice so we have to speak for them,” Megan says. “It’s important to help your community because you know that they always have your back. I get to meet all the nice people and share their stories and get to know [a] little bit about everybody who helps.” In addition to helping animals, Megan is also passionate about helping the homeless population.

To donate to Buddy’s Angels, visit youcaring.com/buddysfundraiser. Funds are used to help pay for homeless animals’ medical bills.

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