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From CertifiKID Camp Scholarship Recipient to Budding Philanthropist, This 6-Year-Old is on a Mission to Help Kids Give Back

News Parenting

"You're too young to volunteer." These are the words that spurred spunky, now 6-year-old, Cavanaugh Bell, to not only prove wrong, but to start a full-fledged movement to show kids everywhere that they, too, can make a difference.

Passionate about helping others, but frustrated about being continually turned away by volunteer organizations because he didn't meet minimum age requirements, Cavanaugh decided to take matters into his own hands. With help from his mom, Llacey, Cavanaugh started Cool & Dope, an organization with a mission to spread positivity by empowering kids of all ages to change the world, one positive vibe (and volunteer project) at a time.

We met Cavanaugh for the first time last spring at our celebration for our inaugural class of CertifiKID Camp Scholarship recipients. Little did we know at the time what big plans this little guy had in store!

Jamie and Cavanaugh Scholarship
Cavanaugh With CertifiKID CEO, Jamie Ratner

Cavanaugh's mom contacted us last week to fill us in about Cool & Dope and Cavanaugh's current anti-bullying campaign, which grew partly out of his experience receiving our camp scholarship (how 'cool' is that?!). 

Cavanaugh experienced bullying in preschool last year; the stress even caused him to stop eating for weeks. Receiving a CertifiKID camp scholarship, which his mom used to send him to You Reach I Teach Basketball Academy camp in Gaithersburg, was a transformative experience for him. The welcome and encouragement he received from his peers at camp renewed his spirit and allowed him to regain his confidence going into the current school year. Inspired to pay the generosity and positivity forward, Cavanaugh has devoted his efforts during the month of February to raising awareness about the effects of bullying throughout his community.

He even recently presented a speech in front of Gaithersburg's Mayor and Council Members to ask them to make February 21st Gaithersburg, Maryland's Official Anti-Bullying Awareness Day in Gabriel Taye's honor (an 8-year-old Cincinnati boy who committed suicide after being bullied), which they granted! 

What led you to start Cool & Dope?

I started Cool & Dope because I helped my mom raise money for Flint, Michigan last summer and I really liked giving back to others. I asked my mom to find ways for me to volunteer, but most places kept telling her that I was too young. My mom also watches the news a lot and I would hear about the negative things going on in the world and I wanted to spread more love and positivity.

Can you tell me about Cool & Dope’s mission and what type of community projects you work on?

Cool & Dope is all about raising awareness and giving young kids a way to give back. I want to support a different cause every month. For this year, we delivered handmade cards to 200 sick kids, and for February we will raise awareness about bullying. March will be all about helping seniors and having a dinner for the elderly. April is dedicated to keeping our Earth clean and adopting a sloth. For May, we will raise money by having yard sales and an art show to send 30 underprivileged kids to their first play at the Kennedy Center.

How many people help run Cool & Dope?

Right now, it is just me and my mom. But, we have had a lot of volunteers, even kids, to help us with each campaign each month. I am also asking my friends to partner with me if it is a cause they care about. For example, my friend Gabby who is 8 was bullied so bad that she thought about suicide. So, she is helping me bring awareness about bullying in February.

How do you decide on your monthly service projects?

Me and my mom talk a lot about what affects us and what we want to change. We make sure each project is connected to something we have experienced. For example, when I was 3-years-old, I was in the hospital for a week and my mom's friends made me cards that made me happy. That is how I got the idea of doing a Cards for Sick Kids campaign. And, I had a hard time with bullying last year and so did my mom when she was little, so stopping bullying made sense for us to focus on.

What has been your most exciting moment in helping others?

For me, last November for my birthday, I asked people for $6 for my 6th birthday. When I was able to collect $634 in one week to make care packs, that was the most exciting for me. It made me feel so happy to be able to make homeless people smile and know that someone loved and cared for them.

What has been your biggest struggle with Cool & Dope?

Public speaking. I am a little shy so I get nervous when I have to talk to people about Cool & Dope, but I am working on this. It is frustrating sometimes that people aren't as excited about giving back to others as I am.

Where do you hope to go with your programs? What are your goals?

I really want to grow Cool & Dope and have it be a kid-run company that gives back every month. I want our campaigns to be different than just raising money; I want kids to be able to see their impact and to know that their ideas are powerful. It would be so cool to have a Cool & Dope chapter in other States, so we can help even more people.

For the month of February, you’re focused on bringing awareness to bullying. What are your plans throughout the month?

Now that the Gaithersburg Mayor has granted my request to make February 21st Anti-Bullying Awareness Day for the City, I want it to be a big day of reflection.

Me and my mom have contacted every school in Gaithersburg to ask them to wear blue on that day since this is the bullying awareness color. I will have a candlelight vigil on February 21st to remember all bullying victims and have kids come and speak at the event to share their thoughts and ideas.

I wanted to learn more about how we can help stop bullying so my mom made an online survey. We have had almost 150 people take the survey and share their thoughts about how we can do better with stopping bullying.

At the very end of the month, I will go to Annapolis and speak with Julie Palakovich Carr (MD House of Delegate) to ask her to help get more strict bullying training for teachers. Me and my mom read a few articles about teacher bullying and how this is not being addressed. My mom was bullied by a teacher when she was young which made her attempt suicide at 8-years-old. So, I want to ask for more training and awareness for teacher bullying.

How can kids your age get involved in their community?

Even being nice to others is a great way to give back. Think about your actions and what you do and how it affects others. Picking up trash in your neighborhood (or not littering) is an easy thing to do. And Cool & Dope will have a kid-friendly activity every month that you can do, too. We will also do short guides every month that you can read to give you the steps to take to be more active in your community.

Do you have any advice for other young philanthropists?

You will hear NO a lot and that is okay. Never give up. Your ideas are powerful and you can have an impact. And if you ever need help, let me know, I am always here for you!

To learn more, get involved or donate, visit the Cool & Dope website.

Tags: Cool & Dope, Cavanaugh 6-year-old charity work community


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