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Friday, January 31, 2014

Pay it Forward Kids: Small Acts, Big Change. Written by Nancy Runstedler. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2013. $19.95 ages 12 and up

"Most people think "homeless" means living on the streets or in homeless shelters. But homelessness also includes those who live in vehicles, stay with friends or relatives, or in unfit and overcrowded conditions. Some people are temporarily homeless, while others are permanently homeless."

The first story in this new book about remarkable kids doing amazing things features Hannah Taylor, a 16 year old from Winnipeg, Manitoba. When she was only six, a chance sighting of a man eating out of a garbage can on a cold night made her heart sad. She needed answers from her mother about how such a thing could happen. Her mother answered those questions as best she could, and then suggested that Hannah might think about a way to help...that might ease the pain in her heart.

Hannah talked with her teacher, her classmates; together, they raised money intended to help the homeless. She knew ladybugs to be good luck charms. So, she painted more than 1,000 baby food jars to look like ladybugs, and set about asking people to donate their spare coins. Ten years later, she has written a book (Ruby's Hope), founded two charities (The Ladybug Foundation, The Ladybug Foundation Education Program) and continues to make change. Today, as happens every January 31, she leads the walk for a fundraiser called "Walk A Mile in Their Shoes on National Red Scarf Day". A scarf is needed today when the wind chill in most of Manitoba has been hovering between -30 C and -39 C!!!

"With a supportive family, an accepting group of friends, and a sky-is-the-limit attitude, Hannah still has many plans and many lives to touch."

There are 14 stories here, each inspired by the 'pay it forward' perspective these kids have taken. They range in age from 10 to 19, and live in Canada and the United States. They were all inspired to make a difference in their world, thus changing the world at large. Others couldn't see what they saw; so, they got to work to share a passion and help beat the odds. They encouraged others to join them to 'pay it forward', and they continue to work for causes that matter. They remind each one of us that there is so much good in the world, and we must embrace it.

Each new chapter introduces readers to an outstanding world citizen with a cause...whether it is human trafficking, proper eyeglasses, collecting pennies, earthquake orphans, human rights, community service, care packages for soldiers, non-profit charities, gifts for sick kids, books for those who have none, equipment drives, clothes for Chinese New Year, or Kind Campaigns to counteract bullying, these kids were inspired to take one small step that often led to much bigger things. Photos, webs, information boxes, quotes from well-known leaders are included in each of these chapters and form an important part of this impressive and inspiring book.

You cannot help but be astounded by their extraordinary spirit and drive to make their world, and ours, a much better place. Remember, you can do it, too. Start small.

"There are opportunities to pay it forward all around you every day. Hold open a door, give someone a hug, share your lunch, rake leaves for a senior, read to a toddler, give out genuine compliments, or walk your neighbour's dog. The list is endless."

And, it's contagious!

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