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Connor Grossman, 7 years old, from Rochester, NY wins First Place Gee Whiz Kids™ Award
Washington, DC - Connor Grossman from Rochester, NY was awarded First Place for the 2012 Gee Whiz Kids™ Award given by the Heart of America Foundation®. He will receive a certificate, letter, and $250.

When Connor was in first grade he had a very creative idea. Noticing his marbles, stored in an old cigar box, he wondered what would happen if he dipped them in paint and then shook them in the box. With his mother’s help, he tested his idea. His mother commented that the painting created was beautiful and that someday, when he’s a famous artist, it would be worth a lot of money.

Connor suggested trying to sell the painting immediately. His mother suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, and he wanted to raise money for the National MS Society. With the help of his father, Connor put together a website in March 2011 and put his first painting up for sale. Within an hour the painting was sold to a buyer in Virginia, and Marbles4MS was born.

Since that first sale, Connor and his brother, Jackson, have gone on to sell thousands of paintings across the U.S. and in eight countries, raising over $50,000 for the National MS Society. Marbles4MS has increased its product line to include t-shirts, biking jerseys, greeting and holiday cards, bookmarks, and Christmas ornaments. All of the money raised through sales goes directly to the National MS Society, and helps to fund programs and research for people affected by MS.

Once Connor and Jackson saw how much they were able to support people with MS, they wanted to engage other children in community service and so started Marbles4Mankind, a school-based fundraiser that supports five charities. In 2012, Marbles4Mankind provided support to the National MS Society, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Verona Street Animal Society, the Sierra Club, and Golisano Children’s Hospital.

In recognition of his commitment to service, Connor has also been awarded a proclamation from the County Legislature, and in November 2011 he and his brother were honored by the National MS Society at their convention in Dallas.

To learn more about Connor’s service activities visit his websites at
www.marbles4ms.org and www.marbles4mankind.org

N’Jhari Jackson 10 years old, from Tampa, FL wins Second Place Gee Whiz Kids™ Award
Washington, DC - N’Jhari Jackson from Tampa, FL was awarded Second Place for the 2012 Gee Whiz Kids™ Award given by the Heart of America Foundation®. He will receive a certificate, letter, and $150.

N’Jhari, currently ten years old and in the fifth grade, created his first service project after taking an unexpected trip to the hospital for a surgical procedure. On his way into the operating room he became frightened when his mother couldn’t join him. To help calm his fears, one of the nurses gave him a stuffed animal. When he departed the hospital, he passed many children who could not visit the hospital play room, or play with children in neighboring rooms, because they were too sick. Remembering how scared he was when he went into the operating room, and how much better holding the stuffed animal made him feel, N’Jhari decided to provide hospitalized children with stuffed animal “buddies” to keep them company.

Calling his project Pajama Buddy Voyage, he asked people to donate new stuffed animals. Each stuffed animal is named by the donor, and given to a hospitalized child. Pajama Buddy Voyage has provided stuffed animals to Shriners Hospital for Children, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, and Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando. He has also shipped Pajama Buddies to ill children as far away as Macau, China.

In addition to stuffed animals he collected money, raising over $2,000, which he gave to Shriners Hospital for Children in Tampa.

As he continued to visit children in the hospitals, he realized that many hospitalized children do not always have books and games available, and so he started his second service project, Pajama Drab Bags. Pajama Drab Bags donates backpacks filled with books, games, puzzles, and stuffed animals to hospitalized children. To date N’Jhari has delivered more than 500 Pajama Drab Bags to children across the Tampa area. 

The Gee Whiz Kids™ Award is given to children age 12 and under
who exemplify the value of service in America.

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Bailey Ford, 8 years old, from Tompkinsville, KY wins Third Place Gee Whiz Kids™ Award
Washington, DC - Bailey Ford from Tompkinsville, KY was awarded Third Place for the 2012 Gee Whiz Kids™ Award given by the Heart of America Foundation®. She will receive a certificate, letter, and $100.

Several years ago Bailey, better known to friends and family by her nickname, Maddie, witnessed a homeless man pushing his cart down the street. Worried about how he would stay warm during the winter, she recruited friends and family to help post flyers around her small town asking for people to donate money, blankets and sleeping bags. Within a few days donations started coming in and she eventually collected over 200 blankets for the homeless in Warren County.

In 2011, Bailey furthered her support of the homeless by organizing the Backpacks of Love Campaign, which donated sleeping bags and backpacks filled with personal hygiene items to the homeless in Nashville, TN. During the campaign she coordinated thirty volunteers, fundraised and helped pack backpacks. Through her hard work and commitment she raised over $6,000 and collected thousands of donated items.

She attached a short note to every backpack, sleeping bag and blanket encouraging the recipients to continue the gift of giving by “paying it forward” if they have the opportunity.

In addition to her support of the homeless, she also assisted flood victims in Nashville in the spring of 2010, as well as participates annually in the Monroe County Angel Tree program. This year she also fundraised for Monroe County’s Relay for Life.

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More information about the Gee Whiz Kids™ Award or the Heart of America Foundation® can be found on the Foundation’s website at www.heartofamerica.org or by contacting Colleen Noland at colleen@heartofamerica.org.

Founded in 1997, the Heart of America’s focus is to provide children in need everywhere with the tools to read, succeed and make a difference. A national nonprofit headquartered in Washington, DC, its programs uniquely combine volunteerism and literacy. Since 1997, it has provided children living in poverty with over 1.8 million books and has helped volunteers serve more than 1,020,000 hours giving back to the community.

CONGRATULATIONS! 2012 Gee Whiz Kids™ Award

Heroes of the Heart™ Gee Whiz Kids™ Award [download application]

AWARD WINNERS:    2016  • 2015  •  2014  •  2013  •  2012  •  2011  •  2010  •  2009

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