Art Class Empowers Middle-Schoolers and Fosters Community Service

By MJ Vieweg

Staff Writer

Mia Ottesen is not only teaching her students creative and artistic techniques in her middle school art class in Kodiak, Alaska but also some life skills which they used to provide their community homeless shelter with needed items.

The students in Ms. Ottesen’s art classes learned basic sewing skills including measuring and cutting and also crocheting. The $100 grant from Start A bought crochet hooks, thread and fleece and fabric for the blankets and hats.

The initial project was making blankets and hats for the local homeless shelter to distribute.

When the students delivered 22 blankets to the Brother Francis Homeless Shelter in Kodiak, they saw first-hand how they were able to help others in their community.

“Instead of only teaching kids how to make pinch pots or Kaleidoscopes, I wanted them to see they can make something that will benefit the community and themselves. The kids will benefit from learning a useful skill, while helping to solve a problem in our community,” Ottesen said. “They learn how to be givers instead of takers.”

Remember Our Titans


High School Students Help Their Former Classmates Make it in College

By Abbigayle Hunt, Contributing Writer

Once tuition is paid and books are purchased, there is not usually a whole lot of money left for college students to spend. Quite often, there is not enough money for fun, and the thought of taking finals and studying without any kind of pick-me-up can be daunting. With those things in mind, 16-year-old Ryan Goodlett started “Project Remember Our Titans” to benefit low-income high school graduates who were accepted into college, and to raise awareness and support of their academic endeavors.

The idea was born when Ryan sent a package to his best friend who was away at school. He started thinking about other college students who might not have much financial support. With this in mind, he and fellow students met after school once a month and held fundraisers, gathered donations, held up signs, and then purchased and organized care packages, which included movies, gift cards, baked goods, books and school supplies. In addition to the fundraising and donations he gathered, Ryan received a $100 donation from Start a Snowball, which helped him purchase supplies and ship them to college students in need.

From August 2014 to May 2015, Ryan and his after school group sent a total of 25 care packages to three men and three women at college. But the project didn’t just benefit the students who received packages. According to Ryan, the project also “created awareness among current students of the importance of supporting fellow Titans at all points of their educational journey.” Ryan will lead the project next year during his senior year of high school, and hopes to expand it further so that he can reach even more Titans. Are the graduates grateful? You bet. Ryan has received many thanks from the college students who benefited from his packages.

Camp Sobaco Girl Scouts’ Butterfly Garden

butterfly garden

Girls Work to Help the Butterfly Population

A $100 grant from Start A Snowball allowed the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County, to create the Butterfly Garden at Camp Sobaco. The Girl Scouts goal was to give the Monarch butterflies a safe place to stop when they travel from Canada to Mexico. In creating the garden, the girls hoped to increase the Monarch population (as well as the populations of other threatened butterfly species), to educate the kids at Camp Sobaco about Monarch butterflies, to make camp Sobaco more beautiful.


Girl Scouts of America is a nationwide organization which focuses on developing the character of the young women of the United States. Juliette Gordon Low formed a Girl Scout troop in March 12, 1912 in Savannah Georgia. Girl Scouts of America has blossomed from its humble beginnings, and today there are 2.8 million Girl Scouts across the country and around the world. Girl Scouts participate in many different programs and activities including learning about different cultures, science, cooking, and the environment. With every project, they learn to make the world a better place by helping others, and they have the ability to earn badges along the way which represent what they have learned.


The money from this grant allowed the girls to build a garden filled with plants and flowers that attract butterflies. They also planned to use the money to buy lumber in order to build a fence for the garden to rest from their long journey when they stopped in the garden. By creating this garden, the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County want to help endangered butterflies, as well as to teach the other children at Camp Sobaco more about the Monarch butterfly species.


Thanks to the $100 grant from Start A Snowball, the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County were able to turn an empty area of Camp Sobaco into a beautiful butterfly garden which provides a much needed resting point for Monarch butterflies during their migration, and an educational experience for all the children of Camp Sobaco.


Operation Happy Paws, Happy Feet: Helping the Homeless


7 Year old Sells Cat Toys to Buy Socks for the Homeless

By Abbigayle Hunt, Contributing Writer

Seven-year-old Willow Phelps has always been an animal lover, so when she found out about Collide NYC, she knew she needed to help. Collide NYC is a faith-based organization that provides help to the homeless and their pets in New York. One of the constant needs for their human clients is socks. Even though it wasn’t directly working with the pets, Willow wanted to help and she found a way to do it that still involved animals.

Willow came up with the idea to make catnip toys to sell to raise money for the socks that are needed by the homeless clients of Collide NYC, and set a goal to provide socks to 75-100 people. She named the project, “Operation Happy Paws, Happy Feet,” and got to work. Using donated supplies, Willow was able to make toys and sell them to raise money. She also raised awareness by attaching tags to each toy explaining the services provided by Collide NYC.

Making and selling cat toys helped, but Willow wanted to do more to reach her goal. Because of her love of animals, Willow works during the summer watching peoples’ cats. After finding out about the clients in need of socks, Willow decided to donate her summer pet-sitting earnings to buy socks. Between her summer earnings and her catnip toy sales, Willow earned $75, and with a matching grant from Start A Snowball, she donated 200 pairs of socks to Collide NYC.

Willow has had a great experience working on Operation Happy Paws, Happy Feet. She not only got to help, but she learned how to sew cat toys, personally handed out some of her socks, and met the people who will be benefit from donations. Willow doesn’t plan to stop now that the socks have been donated. She has display tables reserved at several holiday fairs and hopes to continue to earn money so that she can give socks, scarves, and gloves to the clients at Collide NYC. She also hopes to involve her friends and classmates so that they can experience service like she has.


Girl Helps Local Bird Sanctuary

Girls help bird Sanctuary

Trip to Local Bird Sanctuary Inspires Sixth Grader

Contributed by MJ Vieweg, Staff Writer


Lexie Wilder, a six-grade student in Las Vegas, Nevada received a $100 grant from Start A Snowball to help raise awareness for the Bird Sanctuary in her city.

“Kids do a lot to help dogs and cats at the animal shelter,” said Lexie.  “I help out there too. But this summer I went to a bird sanctuary where they had birds of all types: chickens, ducks, finches, parrots, mina birds, etc. As I walked around, two chicks kept following me wherever I went. I went back a few weeks later and it was as if they were waiting for me because they came right back to me once again.”

Lexie’s visit to the bird sanctuary not only inspired the project but also its the name: My Two Chicks. “After my first trip to the bird sanctuary, I decided to write a grant for a project to help the birds and chickens,” said Lexie. “One goal of the project is to raise awareness for the bird sanctuary in Las Vegas (and other cities) that might have a bird sanctuary so people know that besides dogs and cats at the local shelters, our city has a place for birds that are in need of rescue or hospice, or need a place called home.”

The $100 grant bought chicken feed, feeders and water dispensers. Volunteers painted the feeders and helped make posters to promote the bird sanctuary and Lexie’s project at the local feed store where the chicken feed was purchased. Lexie hopes to continue the project through the year and beyond with ongoing donations of feed and feed containers. “I plan on sharing my idea with other bird sanctuaries to see if they might enlist the help of kids who are around their city who are interested in helping with a similar project,” said Lexie.

How Nerds Rule Inc is Helping the Homeless

Have you ever looked at a homeless person on the street and wondered how they got there? Maybe they lost their job and couldn’t find another one, or maybe they just fell on hard times and lost everything. Have you ever wished you could have done something to help those people? Well that’s exactly what Nerds Rule Inc is trying to do. This post will provide more information on the group and what they’re doing.

What is Nerds Rule Inc?

Nerds Rule Inc is a group whose goal is to see that no man, woman or child has to live homeless on the street because of devastating circumstances and that each person is able to receive the personal attention necessary to overcome their homelessness.

How do they accomplish their goal?

They accomplish their goal by traveling, working hand in hand with teams of volunteers and other organizations that that provide food, clothing, and other necessities to those who are homeless and in dire need of supplies.

What do the homeless care packages consist of?

In addition to providing food in the homeless care packages, each person has the opportunity to to get educational material to return to school or go to college, job placement or training.

How has Nerds Rule Inc gotten volunteers for their project?

Nerds Rule Inc works with several schools and universities that provide tutoring for some of the students. They also run a Nerds Rule Inc radio show that they use to recruit volunteers over the air. How long was their event?

Have they had any events?

They had a one-day event that started on April 25, 2015.

What was the purpose of the event?

The event helped and encouraged those who are homeless and may be hurting, and show each individual that people in the community care about them and what they them to know what they matter.

Are they doing anthing else to education the community?

Yes, they are also creating a documentary called “The Faces of the Homeless,” They want to attempt to break down the stereotypes usually associated with the homeless and show that, in a post-recession economy, losing your home happens to every day people.

How can I find out more about Nerds Rule, Inc?

You can find out more about Nerds Rule Inc and their various programs by visiting their website.

First grade team gives victims of tragedy a jumpstart on healing

By: Sherri A. Hutchinson, Contributing Writer

Thanks to a $100 grant from Start A Snowball, a group of first graders from The Premier Charter School took teamwork and collaboration to new heights. The group launched project “Packing Hope” with the goal of delivering 20 backpacks filled with what they envisioned would provide comfort and hope for the future to children struck by loss due to fires.

These backpacks were filled with school supplies and everyday hygiene items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste to assist victims of tragedy in rebuilding the structure of their everyday lives.

The team hoped that with every backpack, pencil, and notebook other children would feel part of the spirit of The Premier Charter School’s vision, “The students we serve today will be the spirit of St. Louis tomorrow.”

A part of helping children struck by tragedy was twofold. The team realized it was not enough to collect  filled backpacks, but would need a group of caring first responders to get them to those individuals in need. They were fortunate to find that community collaboration with firefighters in their St. Louis community. The team provided the filled backpacks to the fire station so the firefighters could deliver them to the children.

The project “Packing Hope” came to fruition with hard work collecting backpacks and items such as school supplies, hygiene products, reading books, and small toys. The students called upon parents, made announcements, and worked with community resources to compliment the foundation of the Start A Snowball grant.

This project exceeded the expectations of its plan through great drive and ambition by these students so children in their community would have the opportunity to start anew. The Premier Charter School first graders provided over 30 children with backpacks full of supplies. They decided to make it an annual service event aiming to touch the lives of children who have lost everything in fires and other tragedies to start anew every New Year.

Arizona 7th Grader Takes Action to Support Classmates

By MJ Vieweg, Staff Writer

Thanks to a $100 grant from Start A Snowball, twelve-year-old Kaitlyn Martinez was able to give backpacks full of school supplies to 175 of her schoolmates. She also provided 20 backpacks to one of the largest domestic violence shelters in her Arizona community. Kaitlyn is another example of a certain type of young person that not only notices when something is not right in her school or community, but sets out to do something about it.

“Last year a lot of kids in my class were not able to finish assignments because they did not have pen and paper at home and were too embarrassed to say anything,” said Kaitlyn. “I want to collect school supplies for kids in need. Many families do not have the money to buy them.”

Kaitlyn relied on support from her family, friends and community-at-large. She spread the word about her project, “Backpacks 4 Kids AZ”, on Facebook, by putting up flyers and placing a small print ad in the local paper. She also approached stores directly to ask for support for her project either by donating school supplies or by helping to promote it.

Kaitlyn hopes to continue the project next year, hoping to provide at least 300 backpacks with proceeds from planned fundraisers, a rummage sale and donations.

“I think my project was successful, seeing as this was the first year,” she said. “I am hoping I will be able to help even more kids next year.

Young Artists Coming Together through Publication

How “Sparks of Creativity” Connected Young Artists Across the World

By Lorelei Miguel-Rossow, Contributing Writer

Jieru Shi perceived the artist life as one that only existed for those that were “good” at art, or created within the lines of his art classes. When his work did not reflect the norm, or it pushed creative boundaries, he received criticism from his instructors, and took their words to heart. He unfortunately stopped taking art courses; stunting his artistic dream. There were others like him. They faced not only criticism from the outside world, but also from the voices in their heads. He knew that there had to be something he could do to keep that dream alive.

Jieru began a youth initiated project called Sparks of Creativity ( He applied for a grant from Start A Snowball and stated that the publication would, “…Respect the uniqueness as well as skill levels of each person.” He created numerous writing and art contests, soliciting submissions from students globally. The winners were based on the depth of creativity instead of the traditional “skill-based” view.

The winning artists and writers were featured in the first issue of the magazine. Jieru included more work than he originally thought possible, and when he sent out the winners’ free copies, Jieru said, “…They didn’t believe their art had been good enough.” Artwork and/or poetry from over 60 people hailing from more than 25 countries were represented in the publication.

Receiving the grant gave Jeiru the much needed motivation and confidence to realize his vision: a publication that gave all young artists a shot at being their most creative, without boundaries.  He is excited to continue the journey and has big plans for producing another magazine next year; possibly including all of the artists that missed the initial deadlines. With this positive outlook on the future, Jeiru is an inspiration to all young artists everywhere who want to create without fear of rejection.

Neighborhood kids’ Helping Hands

kids lending helping hands

Neighborhood Group is Lending Helping Hands Where They are Needed

By Heather Thomas, Contributing Writer

Happy Helpers is a new group that looks to encourage children ages five to 17 years old to give back to their community through participating in a variety of community service projects. The group’s parent leader said that the group hopes that the emphasis on taking care of one’s community will lead to more opportunities for community service projects for the children.

The group, applying under the name Kids Helping Hands, originally planned to use the $100 grant from Start a Snowball to organize the clean-up of as many vacant lots in the community as possible. The money would have been spent on gloves, bags and sticks to assist the children to safely pick up the garbage.

The plan was to have the children work together to make a plan of what lots to clean and devise how they could maximize the number of lots they could clean in the four to six hours they planned to spend on the project. It was to be the group’s inaugural event, kicking off the group’s commitment to inspiring children to do good and volunteer. Somewhere along the way the scope of the project changed, and the children instead helped out at the local food pantry and humane society.

The group donated $50 to the food pantry, which lead to helping more than 100 people. The donation also motivated the start collection of supplies to host a food drive to further benefit the pantry. The group helped several animals at the humane society’s shelter through a donation of $20. The project was deemed a successful start for the organization because of how the group quickly gained momentum and built excitement in the community.

Happy Helpers used the remainder of their grant to enter in a local parade. The parade has the potential to put the organization’s name in front of thousands of people. The group hopes that it will lead to more service project opportunities for the children. The group has also been working with local senior community centers, coordinating with efforts to clean up public spaces, and food packing events for the pantry.

13 Year Old Brings Joy to Kids

joy to kids

Alyssa is Bringing Joy to Kids at the Holidays

By, Abbigayle Hunt, Contributing Writer

It all started with a stuffed fish toy. Thirteen-year-old Alyssa Svalina wanted her toy to bring joy to another kid. So she asked her friend, a volunteer firefighter, what she could do with it. He suggested she collect toys to give to the fire department to use to comfort children in crises situations. Hearing this helped Alyssa realize that there were other kids out there that were less fortunate than herself, and she wanted to do something to help them. At the heart of everything she does Alyssa wants the kids to know that they mean something and are loved.

Alyssa ran across the Wake County foster care stocking drive, and the desire to help was ignited again.  In 2012, she collected 56 stockings, in 2013 she was able to collect 200, and in 2014 she collected 364, that’s almost enough to give one stocking each day of the year. But even with that monumental amount, Alyssa still had the sorrow of seeing youth go home from the annual Christmas party without a stocking. With a $100 grant from Start a Snowball, Alyssa hopes to increase the number of stockings available for next years Christmas party so that no one has to go without. When asked if she would continue to work on the stocking drive she said, “Why wouldn’t I? If I don’t there’s one child without.”

In addition to the work she has done on the stocking donation drive, Alyssa also donates at the Raleigh Rescue Mission, and to families in need around her community.  No matter where children are in crisis, Alyssa wants to help. Along with her goal of donating more to the stocking drive in Wake County, she also has the dream of being able to open up her garage and run a free Christmas shop where children can come and shop for free to take home gifts so that no child has to go without during the Christmas season.

An Angel of Hope Against Cancer

This 7th Grader is Making a Difference in the Fight Against Cancer

By Terquoia Cain, Contributing Writer

Cancer is a word that has become all too familiar. Unfortunately, at some point in life most people know of someone who is battling cancer. Perhaps they have cared for a loved one with cancer. Or maybe they themselves are a cancer survivor. For most people who have been affected by cancer there is a desire to help in some capacity, but there are few people who decide to take action. However, a young girl by the name of Julianna Cavarretta is an exception.

Julianna is a twelve-year-old, 7th grader who resides in southern California. Her great grandmother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. After Julianna learned of her great grandmother’s diagnosis she wanted to do something that would help to make a difference. Julianna knew that there was a need for cancer research. She decided to raise money that would go towards research and the treatment of breast cancer patients, by selling baked cupcakes and brownies. Julianna, along with the help of her friend, Samuel Garcia launched the project in June 2015. She received a $ 100.00 grant from Start a Snowball to jump start her project. The grant money was used to buy poster boards and other supplies to advertise the bake sale. The grant money also helped them distribute the baked goods.

For Julianna, baked goods and an important cause created the perfect recipe for sweet success! Her project produced a profit. All the proceeds were donated to City of Hope Hospital; which is located in Duarte, California. Julianna is thankful for the grant money she received from Start a Snowball. In fact, she wishes more organizations would make contributions for a good cause. Julianna’s story is proof that a sincere heart and a good idea can create a positive impact in the lives of others. Hopefully one day there will be an abundance of monetary resources for cancer research, and it will be eradicated.

NMR’s First Annual Autism Awareness Benefits Concert

Autism Awareness Day

By Lanie Pemberton, Contributing Writer

In November 2014, a snowball was started in Turlock, California.

That snowball came in the form of a group of teenagers who looked around and realized that the teen involvement in Turlock was not up to par. These teens wanted to make a difference, so they did something that would make a huge impact on their city: they founded NMR. Founded for teens and by teens, the mission of NMR is “to get youth in the Turlock area to be more active citizens by engaging in and promoting community service and social activities”.

In order to make a difference in their community, the teens that make up NMR host monthly socials and bimonthly community service projects. One project in particular really stood out as a game-changer for the community of Turlock- the NMR club’s Autism Awareness Benefit Concert. The club was passionate about the success of this event, as several of the members have autistic siblings.

The goal of the Autism Awareness Benefit Concert was to raise awareness and funds for families dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Turlock/Modesto communities. The concert was preceded by a two-month long process in which the NMR teens planned and raised funds. They approached local business owners and asked for sponsorship, and they hosted fundraisers at multiple schools in order to raise enough money to book the concert venue. They also sold merchandise and club shirts in order to bring in even more funds for the benefit concert.

NMR received a grant from Start A Snowball in the amount of $100 for the Autism Awareness Benefit Concert. The club members stated that the grant money “went towards the initial expenses of printing tickets and making flyers” and that it also helped the event to look more professional. The grant also helped the club to buy a professional domain name and create an official website. The website will allow for continued growth of NMR.

NMR’s Autism Awareness Benefit Concert, held on April 18, 2015, was a great success! The teens were thrilled with the outcome of the event, saying that “many people were interested in our club and our causes after the concert was over”. The concert helped the club to raise and donate $600 to the Carlos Vierra Foundation, which gives aid to families dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The event was so successful that the teens have decided to make it an annual event with the help of local businesses in Turlock.


For more information on NMR and the amazing teens who are making a difference in their community, check out their website here.


How Mercy for America’s Children is Helping Children in Foster Care

kiids hleping foster kids

By Erica Martin, Contributing Writer

Are you a child in foster care, or are you being adopted through foster care? Or are you an adult who was in foster care before you got adopted? If so you may be interested in Mercy for America’s Children, an organization that’s helping children in foster care by providing monthly support group meetings for children who are in foster care, or who are being adopted through foster care. In addition, they also want to plan activities four times a year so that children in foster care can come together with others who have been adopted through foster care. This article will provide more information on the project.

What is Mercy for America’s Children?

Mercy for America’s Children is a North Carolina based nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of children waiting adoption in the US foster care system. They do this by educating the public about the benefits of adopting children in foster care, reforming the adoption process, connecting waiting children to potential adoptive families, and supporting them through their adoption journey.

How do they do this?

The programs and activities they provide include information sessions about adopting through foster care, monthly support groups for adults in the process of adopting a child in foster care, specialized trainings for adults on topics like sexual abuse and trauma, and they also provide a behavioral support team and an academic support team.

What has Mercy for America’s Children accomplished so far? 

Currently, 90 families are receiving services at this time.

What are the future plans for Mercy for America’s Children?

Mercy for America’s Children would like to continue to expand the kids division and add to their collection of resources.

How can I find out more about Mercy for America’s Children? 

You can find out more about them by visiting their website,




Acceptance and Service: Best Buddies accomplishes both!

FL School Builds Acceptance and Service by Pairing Basic Education And Special Education Students

By Lanie Pemberton, Contributing Writer.

What do you get when you pair a passion for service with a desire to unify students of various educational levels? You get Best Buddies, a club founded by a teacher at Connerton Elementary School of Land O Lakes, Florida.

How does it work? Well, Best Buddies functions by pairing basic education  and special education students together with the task of completing service projects around the Connerton campus. The founding teacher stated that the goal of the organization was to “prompt and foster lasting relationships for students with disabilities and their peers”. By uniting the special education students with their basic education peers, Best Buddies promotes understanding, positive peer relationships, and life skills. All this while fostering a culture of service and philanthropy in their community. Quite an amazing way to accomplish two extraordinary goals in one.

The club’s founder showed amazing insight by recognizing the need for understanding and acceptance of children with disabilities and by seeking to accomplish this understanding through service. Service changes people. It opens their hearts in a way that few other activities can. Many would argue that there is no better way to bond with another person than to serve by their side. This is why completing service projects together is the perfect solution to uniting basic education and special education students.

A $100 grant from Start A Snowball enabled the purchase of supplies that the kids could use while participating in the projects around their school. After just one academic year, the Best Buddies program was a huge success at Connerton. A club that started with just ten students grew into multitudes. At the beginning of the second school year, the program had so many students wanting to be Buddies that they had to do quarter shifts in order to allow everyone to participate. The founding teacher remarked that the club’s popularity was more than the school could have hoped for. Best Buddies successfully united Connerton Elementary school with its special education students.

connorton builds acceptance