Need some quick inspo for your Wednesday? Check out the honorees for the 2016 Nickelodeon HALO awards, a special distinction for young people helping and leading others (HALO). Honorees Lillian Pravda and Grace Callwood prove that making a difference can start with the smallest act of kindness, and these ladies are masters of transforming negative circumstances into positive change for others. They will be honored alongside others on Sunday, November 27 at a special concert event hosted by Nick Cannon and featuring musical performances by Daya, Jason Derulo and more of our fave artists. See how these teens continue to improve their communities, and get inspired to give back to those around you.
Grace Callwood, 12
We Cancerve Movement, wecancerve.org
Goal: To serve children who are put in situations beyond their control, specifically focusing on sick, foster and homeless youth.
Grace’s inspiration for the We Cancerve Movement: “When I was seven years old I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer. I had no idea what cancer was or what it meant; I just knew that it was very new and different. We had just gotten all these new back-to-school clothes, but I couldn’t use them because the chemo made me gain weight, and I was too sick to go to school anyway. A family friend told us about a family with two little girls. They had lost their home in a fire, and so I wanted to donate my back-to-school clothes to those little girls because I couldn’t use them anyway. So my mom went to deliver the clothes, and when she came back and told me how happy the girls were, I wanted to do more work like that. So I decided to start the We Cancerve Movement. I wanted to help children who were in sad situations feel happy because I could relate to them. So the We Cancerve Movement helps sick, foster and homeless children, because they’re all in situations that they didn’t cause.”
Grace on growing her organization: “After I was diagnosed, Make a Wish Foundation came to us and helped me go to Disneyland. They also had a gift fairy, so I got a lot of toys, but honestly, I’m not much of a toy person. The homeless family that we donated the clothes to moved into a housing shelter for homeless children and families, so I decided to donate some of the toys to those homeless children. After that, we did a lot of projects, like a lemonade stand and a few other projects. I also decided to name an all-youth board of advisors so that I could have help. For the future, I am hoping to expand the people we’re able to help, expanding locally or regionally, maybe nationally. I definitely want to be able to reach more people because that would be awesome.”
Her favorite service experience: “One of our projects is Camp Happy. It’s a program for homeless children that we do with a homeless shelter in Bel Air, MD. Aiden, one of the kids at the shelter, always makes me happy because someone told us that he was always excited for camp and that he would be waiting at the door for the camp director to come pick him up at his temporary housing. It always made me excited that he was that happy to come to camp, because that’s one of my favorite projects that we do.”
Lillian Pravda, 16
Vision For and From Children, visionforandfromchildren.org
Mission: To help kids across the globe get access to sight-saving surgeries and vision services.
Lillian on her background: “I was born with a cataract in my left eye, and I had it removed when I was nine weeks old so that I would have the best chance of having vision. Then a few years later, around the time when I was five, I had another surgery. I wasn’t just nervous, I was extremely petrified for surgery, and I noticed that everyone else around me was, as well. So after I had the operation I decided to do something to make kids having surgery feel more comfortable and to really ease their minds. I started giving out toys and books to children who were waiting to have surgery. I started to meet lots of people from around the world, and they started to share their stories about how another family made it possible for them to travel, or how doctors were donating their time and their expertise to help them get care. It was from them that I started to question, being a six- (almost seven-) year-old, ‘How come they’re alone…how come they couldn’t get care in their own country?’ That’s sort of when I realized that many children were not as fortunate as I was to get the care that they so desperately needed and truly deserved. When I was eight years old I had the idea to create Vision For and From Children, which is now a global non-profit organization that has helped over 26,000 children so far to receive eye surgeries and any other kind of eye care that they would not have received otherwise.”
On the evolution of her organization: “I’m extremely fortunate to have gained great support over the years. For example, we have diplomats (volunteers who generate funds and awareness for the cause) all over the world, as well as in the United States. We provide care for people people outside of the country in other parts of the world when they don’t have access to care. We also bring children here to the US for care and treat them in the US. I also recently launched a nationwide mobile clinic program. We have a big truck that’s been retrofitted, so inside is everything anyone would need to perform an eye exam. The whole idea is that you can drive it into underserved communities all across America and give care to these children. We provide free eye care, eyeglasses and exams.”
Lillian’s favorite memory: “There was a baby girl, a newborn, from the Dominican Republic. She was born with cataracts, which was the same condition I was born with. She couldn’t receive care in her particular country, so I brought her here to the US to receive care. Thankfully, she was able to be checked and have surgery. Afterwards, I got to hold her in my arms, and she looked right at me. Then, in addition to that, I had the opportunity to go with her to get eyeglasses, because she needed those, as well. As you can imagine, everything was much too big for her newborn face, so I ended up giving her a pair of my old glasses from when I was a newborn. They fixed the prescription to fit her, and eventually, she was wearing my glasses. Jump ahead a few years, when I finally had the opportunity to go on my first mission to the Dominican Republic. To my surprise, when I arrived I saw that there were already hundreds of people waiting with the hope of getting care. I saw these five plastic chairs, these little broken plastic chairs, and only one of them was being used, by a mother and her toddler. That was the same baby, wearing my glasses, and she was the very first person that I saw.”
For more on the HALO Awards, click here.