The Power of Children Awards

The Power of Children Awards recognize middle- and high-school youths who make significant contributions to benefit others. Established in 2005, the awards are inspired by The Power of Children: Making a Difference®exhibit, featuring Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White. In 2013, the national stature of the awards gained momentum with 15 applicants from outside Indiana. Six youths received awards: Madeline Cumbey, Project: SMART2bfit; Maria Keller, Project: Read Indeed; Charles Orgbon III, Project: Greening Forward; Alexandra Skinner, Project: ASAP (After School Art Program); Makenzie Smith,

Project: Makenzie’s Coat Closet; and Christopher Yao, Project: Kids Change the World.

The Power of Children Awards were made possible by the Deborah Joy Simon Charitable Trust with additional support from the Kroger Foundation. A full listing of sponsors can be found under Sponsors.   

Get to know more about these amazing young people who demonstrate the essence of The Power of Children:

Madeline Cumbey (Grade 6) Oswego, Illinois: At the tender age of nine, Madeline was diagnosed with high cholesterol. Coming from a family with a history of heart disease and stroke, Madeline changed her own lifestyle and now helps hundreds of Midwestern families on a quest to be healthier. Her nonprofit company SMART2bfit oversees three organic gardens that have produced over 1,500 pounds of produce for food banks in Illinois. Madeline is also environmentally conscious and, along with a group of volunteers she has coordinated, has built a greenhouse watered from rain barrels. She also sponsors a SMART Walk fundraiser and SMART health clubs within schools.

Maria Keller (Grade 7) Plymouth, Minnesota: “What would a world without books be like?” wondered 7-year-old Maria several years ago. Now a 7th grader, Maria has put more than 800,000 books in the hands of at-risk children worldwide. Her nonprofit Read Indeed encourages hundreds of volunteers to collect, count, sort, and distribute books around the globe. Maria has raised $50,000 to purchase books and pay for warehouse space and shipping costs.

Charles Orgbon III (Grade 11) Dacula, Georgia: Charles is working hard to clean up the planet, and he has recruited 2,000 young people to join the cause. Charles started a nonprofit called Greening Forward. It began as a school club in 2008, but now Greening Forward is an organization with a $100,000 operating budget that hosts an international environmental youth summit annually as well as provides grants for youth-driven environmental projects.

Alexandra Skinner (Grade 10) Vincennes, Indiana: Alexandra found a creative way to fill two educational voids at once—the elimination of art classes in her school district and unproductive, wasted time during after-school childcare. She founded ASAP (After School Art Program). Now in several elementary schools in Indiana, volunteers lead after-school art programming using supplies donated by civic organizations and community sponsors.

Makenzie Smith (Grade 8) Bordin, Indiana: Thousands of southern Indiana infants, children, teens, and adults are wrapped in warmth thanks to a young lady who makes sure they have coats and outerwear when they are unable to afford it. In second grade, Makenzie showed extraordinary compassion when she opened Makenzie’s Coat Closet. Seven years later, 20 organizations and countless volunteers have helped Makenzie provide 13,500 coats and many thousands of hats, scarves, and gloves to grateful recipients.

Christopher Yao (Grade 11) Jericho, New York: Christopher brings smiles to the faces of children who have never been able to smile before—literally! Born with a dental structural problem himself, Christopher has made it possible for more than 70 children in developing nations to have cleft-lip surgery. The success of his philanthropic work inspired him to found Kids Change the World. Its mission is to empower youths to start their own charities and fundraising programs with start-up grants from Kids Change the World. A recent count shows more than 19,000 volunteers and supporters from 34 nations are involved with his organization. Christopher has been featured on several national television programs and has received an invitation to the White House from President Barack Obama. 

The Power of Children Awards were made possible by the Deborah Joy Simon Charitable Trust with additional support from the Kroger Foundation. A full list of sponsors can be found here.