Hasbro Community Action Hero Semi-Finalists 2016

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12 young people were selected as Hasbro Community Action Hero Semi-Finalists for their dedication to service and efforts to impact their local and global communities


The 2016 Hasbro Community Action Hero Semi-Finalists are:


Alisha Zhao | Portland, OR

Alisha began volunteering in homeless shelters at the age of 14, hoping to lift the spirits of the families living there. After experiencing the warmth and love the parents in the shelter had for her, she was motivated to end the stigma around homelessness and founded Kids First Project. Alisha's organization meets homeless families where they are, providing them with enrichment programs to help children reach their full potential and assist parents find housing and break the cycle of poverty.

Carlos Vela | Ingleside, TX

Inspired by the high rates of smoke-related deaths in the United States, Carlos has been actively pursuing a smoke-free ordinance in his community for the past two years. He has worked with the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and more. Because of the pushback from the community and the long approval process, Carlos has developed his public speaking skills and ability to speak about policy change.

Maya Penn | Canton, GA

Maya founded Maya's Ideas, an eco-friendly clothing and accessory business that donates 10-20% of its profits to local and global charities and environmental organizations. As a result of her entrepreneurial spirit, Maya has given three TEDTalks about her sustainable business and the power of giving back, becoming the youngest female to do two back-to-back official TEDTalks. She has also spoken to over 300 girls about pursuing STEM careers and has made 3,000 eco-friendly sanitary pads for women and girls in developing countries.

Michaela West | Beltsville, MD

From the age of 3, Michaela has had an overwhelming drive to help the homeless in Washington, DC and Baltimore. This drive led her to create the Bundles of Love Club, a project through which she collects donations and compiles supply bundles for homeless people. As a Martin Richard Bridge Builder grant recipient, Michaela bought blankets, sleeping bags and food to add to her bundles--which have been assembled by over 240 volunteers she has recruited.

Ryan Traynor | Emerald Hills, CA

After recognizing how many schools don't have the time or money to engage students in-depth STEM activities, Ryan set out to create the first-ever STEM festival in his county. The festival went on to have 35 hands-on booths run by local businesses, 48 partnering organizations, 1,013 volunteers and over 3,000 attendees. Ryan's determination has led to national recognition through Youth Service America's Global Youth Service Day.

Valerie Nguyen | Centreville, VA

Feeling defeated by her sibling's cancer diagnosis, Valerie jumped into action by creating a club at her high school to support childhood cancer patients and their families. She has collected over 150 hats for pediatric cancer patients in her school, made 1,000 gold ribbons to hand out at her high school football game as part of a "Gold Out Month," and is in the process of planning a race to benefit Special Love, an organization that hosts camps for cancer patients and their siblings.

Charli Donaldson | Pittsburgh, PA

Charli's passion for honoring the sacrifice made by soldiers and their families led her to be a team captain for Wreaths Across America and founder of Project Smile. She has spoken at fairs and her local council meeting, inspiring people and organizations to help fund wreaths to be laid at soldiers' graves. All of Charli's work is done under her club's focus of realizing simply smiling at someone can make a difference.

Emmy Perry | Dana Point, CA

Since founding Emmy's Hope at the age of 7, 11-year-old Emmy has saved over 250 dogs on death row, organizing pet adoption weekends to help animals find forever homes. She had delivers supplies to local animal shelters and stays to help employees distribute them. Most recently, she was featured in People Magazine for a campaign filmed by the Kleenex Corporation, which highlighted her animal advocacy work.

Jackson Graf | Sellersburg, IN

Jackson noticed how many families were struggling to put their phones away during meal times and decided to do something about it. He created the Family First box, a container where families can put their phones so that their focus is on each other, not a screen. To date, Jackson has given out 925 boxes to friends, peers and restaurants, and has even been featured on TV.

Kevin Poisson | Hanson, MA

Concerned with the difficulties many people with autism have interacting with law enforcement, Kevin began meeting with local police only to realize they lacked the tools they need to recognize someone on the autism spectrum. He fundraised for six months to bring the "Experience Autism" program to Massachusetts, and is now working to build support of a Bill that would allow for a voluntary symbol on a driver's license to indicate an ASD in the state.

Lia Haile | Manitowoc, WI

Lia created the Hopeful Hearts Club in 2012, a 700+ member organization that provides Welcome Home bags for kids entering Hope House, a local homeless shelter, and hosts birthday parties for kids already living there. She organizes monthly "family fun" events; an annual food, school supply and toy drive; and organized a "backyard makeover" for Hope House, partnering with Lowes and Above and Beyond to make a beautiful space filled with a play yard, picnic area and outdoor library.

Caleb Smith | Bloomington, MN

After witnessing a massive abandonment of pet rabbits after Easter, Caleb created STEM Bunnies, an organization that helps kids practice responsible spending and pet ownership, in addition to developing an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects. Caleb is the primary caregiver for the program's 120 rabbits and has given 1-hour classes to 3,000 kids as part of a traveling education unit.