Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Kids Youngest to Win KISS a Hero Awards

Cooper Posz and Hannah Sorensen know the difference a little hope can make.

A recent cancer survivor, 9-year-old Cooper Posz (pictured left) of Chandler now spends his free time visiting other children battling the disease. As a volunteer for HopeKids, a non-profit providing activities and support to children with life-threatening medical conditions, Cooper talks with kids who are hospitalized like he was to give them hope and help them feel better.

Hannah Sorensen (above right), 12, gave a whole new meaning to the word hope when she started her own charity providing packets of hygiene supplies for the homeless in Phoenix. She named it ‘Soap 4 H.O.P.E.’, which she says stands for Helping Other People Every day.

These two young volunteers are being recognized by Rio Salado College as “heroes” for their efforts to improve the lives of others. Each week the college’s “Kiss a Hero” campaign recognizes citizens who go above and beyond their everyday obligations to help those around them. Cooper and Hannah are the youngest heroes ever to be recognized.

“You’re never too young or too old to help make a difference,” Hannah said. “I think one person can make a difference, and everybody should try.”

Hannah first saw the need for hygiene kits for the homeless when she was volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul’s Chris Becker Dining Room in Phoenix. She noticed the supervisor cutting towels into smaller pieces and pouring shampoo into Dixie cups because they didn’t have enough for everyone.

During her 2007 summer vacation from Most Holy Trinity Catholic School, Hannah went door to door asking people to donate supplies, and then spent several hours each day assembling kits with the help of a neighbor.

So far, Soap 4 H.O.P.E. has donated 250 kits containing personal hygiene products, including a wash cloth, bottle of water, soap, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste. However, Hannah would like to increase her donation to 100 kits per week to meet the need at the shelter, and then eventually expand to other cities and states.

“I want Soap 4 H.O.P.E. to be able to go everywhere one day. If kids start helping out now, they’ll become better adults,” she said.

Like Hannah, fourth-grader Cooper saw a way he could help the people around him.

“After his cancer treatments, Cooper would get to go to a closet at the hospital and pick a toy,” said his mother, Michelle Posz. “He would say to me, ‘Mom, I can’t take a toy every time I come because this closet doesn’t have enough.’”

“The first time I saw ‘Andrea’s Closet’, it was a little empty,” Cooper said. “Every time I would go back, I would check it. I talked to my mom about helping out.”

Cooper led a fundraiser at his school, Basha Elementary in Chandler, and raised 365 toys and 80 books for “Andrea’s Closet”, a non-profit organization that fills hospital closets with toys to put a smile on the faces of children after they have difficult treatments or surgeries.

Both Hannah and Cooper continue to volunteer and bring hope to those around them. Anyone wanting to be involved with Soap 4 H.O.P.E. can send an email to soapforhope@cox.net. For more information about the charities Cooper volunteers with, visit www.hopekids.org or www.andreascloset.org.

“Heroes” can be members of the military, police officers, nurses, teachers or anyone in the community who has made a positive difference. Winners of the “Kiss a Hero” program receive a gift bag from Rio Salado College and a cash prize from radio station KISS 104.7 FM.

Rio Salado College encourages citizens to nominate someone for “Kiss a Hero” by visiting www.1047kissfm.com and submitting an application.