Half-Sized Heroes

Not sure how you feel about kids today? We've rounded up a few inspiring under-18s who are sure to change your mind. Learn how they're using printer cartridges, fairy dolls, and cell phones to save the world.

When you think of kids today, what comes to mind? Pint-sized Paris Hilton clones, complete with Bratz Doll collections and designer-dressed dogs? Sulky emo boys who smoke clove cigarettes and spend their afternoons at skate parks? If you’re not quite sure how to feel about the alien creatures of Generation Z, we’d like to introduce you to a few incredible kids that prove there may be hope for the future yet.

Eli Kahn, of Baltimore, Maryland, was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of three. He whiled away years in bed with nothing to do but watch soap operas, stare into the hospital parking lot, or simply lie there and think – so mostly, he thought. And when his leukemia finally went into remission, Eli had already hatched a plan for how to spend his time now that he was finally healthy again: He would raise money to support the cure of childhood cancers like his.

His fundraising method? Recycling printer cartridges. For the past three years, Eli has solicited donations of used ink jet and laser printer cartridges from individuals, businesses, schools, and nonprofit organizations through a program he calls Cartridges for the Cure. That may seem like small change, but it adds up fast: To date, Eli, now 15, has earned more than $23,000 in donations to the pediatric oncology department at Johns Hopkins. If you’ve got any used cartridges yourself, don’t toss them into the trash – help Eli cure cancer instead. For more details about this inspiring survivor’s program, visit Catridges for a Cure.

For another remarkable story of a child who’s made a difference while fighting cancer, look no further than 8-year-old Abby Bridgewater of Culver, Kansas. While undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia, Abby thought that a new hobby would help her feel better – so she started making fairy dolls. After she’d created 40 dolls, she decided to sell them and donate the proceeds to In the Arms of Friends, a local charity that helps provide support to friends and relatives of children who have cancer. Even while battling leukemia, Abby has managed to raise thousands of dollars for the foundation. All that, and she’s only 8 – just imagine what she’ll be doing once she hits the double-digits.

Finally, how about two selfless siblings that are helping soldiers all over the world? In 2004, when Brittany and Robbie Bergquist of Norwell, Mass., were only 13 and 12, respectively, they read a local news story about a soldier in Iraq who had spent thousands on his phone bill home – so they decided to make sure that didn’t happen to other soldiers. They created a nonprofit organization called Cell Phones for Soldiers, in which they take donations and recycle cell phones. They use the money to purchase prepaid calling cards, which they send to soldiers in Iraq and other bases all over the world. Thanks to Brittany and Robbie, no matter how far from home the soldiers are, they always have a way to reach the people they love. If you’d like to help, visit Cell Phones for Soldiers.