MaryMargaret O’Neill Talks About Why ‘Kids are Heroes’

SFPC: Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about the town in which you grew up.

MARYMARGARET: I am from a small city in Maryland, called Frederick, which is in the United States. I lived in a nice neighborhood and grew up with my neighbors and I have a lot of friends from living there. Everyone was very nice and I liked all the schools I attended, and I worked at a pizza place for about a year when I lived there. There really isn’t anything exciting to do in Frederick other than go downtown to go shopping or eat out, go to the mall, or go to the movies. But it will always be a special city in my heart.

SFPC: It’s clear that you and your father make a fantastic team. What is so special about your father-daughter relationship?

MARYMARGARET: I think by working on Kids are Heroes together, it has definitely brought me closer with him. We have bonded over the project together and plan everything out, always coming up with new ideas on how to expand our work. We talk about the heroes on the site and the impact we are making, and make friends together along the way. I enjoy spending time with my dad, both when we are working on Kids are Heroes, and outside of the organization.

SFPC: You founded Kids are Heroes nearly a decade ago, at the age of nine. How has your perception of the power of children evolved over these years? Are you able to identify a specific moment or circumstance through which felt particularly proud of the difference you’re making?

MARYMARGARET: When I first started Kids are Heroes, I was only in 5th grade. That was before I started middle school! Since then, I have grown as a person and as the founder of the organization. I take things much more seriously and am starting to really understand the impact that the organization is making. I have made a lot of friends through it over the years and have gotten to see kids grow through it and watched some of the heroes inspire others and it’s an incredible feeling. Whenever a kid tells me that I’m the reason why they are helping the world or want to help the world, it makes my entire day. It’s so wonderful to see these kids make an impact in the world and their community.

SFPC: Through our venture, we are aiming to empower today’s youth to
become the next generation of changemakers. What is it about harnessing the entrepreneurial desire in kids that you find so intriguing?

MARYMARGARET: When kids are younger, they think that they can do anything or become anything. They haven’t come across anyone who told them ‘no’ and they think they can solve world peace. It’s a beautiful thing at that age to witness these kids who want to help out in any way they possibly can and come up with their own creative ideas on how to do that. They are full of amazing ideas that can really change the world and it’s so unique. Most kids just want to play video games or buy barbies, but these kids actually want to do something for others, so they use their own creative ways on how to do so.

Global Citizen Crush!?

MARYMARGARET: My Global Citizen Crush would have to be my dad (that feels weird saying that because it sounds like I have a crush on my dad, LOL!). He never lets anything bring him down and is always looking on the bright side of things and figures out ways to make things better. He doesn’t listen to people who say negative things and always focuses on the positive and I think that’s an amazing quality to have. No matter what happens, he’s always looking for the best solution!