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Wonder Kids

Wonder Kids

The year that was is almost over, and we’re edging closer to brand new one. You know what that means? New Year resolutions – and 365 chances to fulfil them. Regardless of your track record of making (and, let’s face it, probably breaking) resolutions, we’re sure you will draw inspiration from these two little legends and do something bigger and better for the world in 2018.

Meet Campbell, aged 13

Without doubt, Sonya Whittaker is proud of her 13-year-old son Campbell’s kind streak. But it goes way beyond that.

“I am very, very proud of him – of course I am,” she says. “But more so I’m in awe of him. I’ll be standing in a crowd of people and watching him speak on stage, and I’m literally in awe of him like the rest of the world! I sometimes sit back and think ‘Where did this kid come from?’!”

It was exactly four years ago this Christmas Eve that Campbell (or “Bumble” as he’s known to most) decided to do something for the sick and less fortunate. Sonya is a florist and Campbell and his mum had just returned from handing out leftover flowers to people in the street in random acts of kindness when it dawned on Campbell that he could and should extend on that kindness theory.

“I wanted to buy presents for kids in hospital but when we realised it would cost a lot to buy presents, I thought about making something to give them instead. It was Christmas Day and I told mum I wanted to sew teddy bears for the sick kids – but I’d never sewn anything before in my life. I remember Mum said ‘Good luck with that!’,” Campbell laughs.

But determined he was. Campbell spent five hours on his mum’s sewing machine that day and by 11pm on Christmas night he presented his first finished teddy bear.

“It was made of cream coloured calico and very, very wonky,” he laughs. “I still have that bear today – his name is Wonky.”

Since that auspicious Christmas Day, Campbell has sewn 1400 teddy bears and presented them to sick kids at the Royal Hobart Hospital and others around the world. Under “Project 365 by Campbell”, this knockabout Year 7 student sews one bear a day “after my homework is done”, he says. He’s got the production process down from five hours to one hour per bear. In the early days, Campbell did odd jobs about the house to earn pocket money to buy materials for his bears but since Project 365 got a head of steam about it roughly one year ago after SBS did a documentary on Campbell, he is nowadays supported in his kindness mission by cash and material donations as well as a fair few celebrity friends.

In fact, Project 365 has gone well beyond just sewing bears. With more than 41,000 members in his public Facebook group and another 16,000 followers on his Facebook page, Campbell has hosted two gala dinner fundraisers (a third is scheduled for February 3), he sells raffle tickets and he also auctions certain bears to raise money to financially support charity organisations and to send cancer sufferers on his “Kindness Cruises”.  Eight families affected by cancer have each enjoyed a holiday cruise with thanks to Campbell – just to give them a little happiness in what can be a sometimes bleak situation. Campbell also recently appeared on Seven’s Little Big Shots TV show and the bear he sewed on stage was auctioned and $1000 donated to the Olivia Newton John Wellness Centre.

In total, Campbell has raised $120,000 this year alone and has sent bears all around the world. Campbell was a staunch supporter and firm friend of Connie from Love Your Sister before she passed away. Brain-cancer fighting Home & Away star Johnny Ruffo recently received a bear from Campbell, as did Barry Dubois from The Living Room when he announced his cancer had returned. Even Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop is a friend of Campbell’s, helping connect him and his bears directly to those affected by the recent Las Vegas shooting and Paris terror attacks. Bears have also been sent to Pakistan, China, the United Kingdom, for example.

And while this kid is one inspirational human being, he’s pretty normal too. Speaking to haven from her five-acre backyard, Sonya interrupts the conversation to have a ‘mum moment’ with her misbehaving sons who are fighting over the ride-a-mower. She’s the mum of nine kids (yes, NINE!) aged between three and 16, and says that Campbell annoys his siblings just as much as they annoy him.

Campbell tells us he’s not sure what the future will bring. He wants to be a fire fighter one day but hasn’t yet thought about stopping his daily sewing ritual. One thing is for sure for this little superstar – his presence in the world has made it brighter. He is most definitely changing the world one bear at a time. And we can’t wait to see just how bright his star will get!

 “Being kind and not mean will change the world a lot,”
– Campbell, aged 13

Meet Sam, aged 13

Samuel Smith was in Year 4 when he first told his mum he wanted to do something… bigger. He had been chosen as the ambassador for the Great Book Swap at his school, Lindisfarne Anglican College. Great Book Swap is a cause that raises funds and awareness for Indigenous literacy – and his role was to collect the books and spread the word.

“He came to me and said, ‘Mum, I want to raise money, too,” says Sam’s mum, Kate Smith. “I suggested getting some cheap cookies and putting them in a jar, and having a guessing competition. He and a mate spent weeks, every morning tea and lunch, raising the money. They got around $50 in the end and he was so, so happy.”

She spoke of a number of other occasions where Sam let his heart of gold shine through. There was the time, last year, when he convinced the local bakery to give him their unwanted stock, which he packaged and distributed to local families affected by flooding. Or the time when he asked his mum to help him bring warm clothes and a sleeping bag to a homeless man they had noticed outside the church – a man who, two days later, became motivated to find a new home in Brisbane.

So Kate was hardly surprised when, in the Christmas holidays of 2015-2016 – right before he started his sixth and final year of primary school – Sam told her he wanted to leave a legacy.

“I wanted to help kids but keep it local, and I didn’t want any of the funds to get lost in administration,” Sam says. “That was pretty much everything that Kids in Need offered.”

The Kids in Need Association (fondly known as KIN) has been around for 35 years, raising money for seriously ill children and their families.

“I thought that there are so many kids that aren’t as well off as other people are, and there’s nothing that people do and it’s not very well-known, so I wanted to raise awareness,” Sam says. “I put posters everywhere – like, everywhere – and talked to my school and my principal approved KIN Day.”

KIN Day, in Sam’s words, is a day where everyone brings a gold coin and dresses up all different – because KIN helps all different kinds of kids – with each school putting on activities like sausage sizzles and competitions. While the day isn’t widely recognised yet, Sam has a goal to take it national, and the KIN Schools Day Fundraiser on November 29 was just one way to spread the word. With the help of his friends and family, Sam has worked tirelessly to collect items to sell at the auction.

“He sent emails to rugby clubs, schools, papers, radio stations – everywhere really – to spread the word, and went doorknocking to businesses to get all of the goods together,” says Kate. “He and a friend went out walking for three hours and came back with one voucher and they were so excited.”

But Sam has scored some seriously big wins in the process – a self-confessed rugby addict, he was overwhelmed when he received a signed Waratahs ???, and was even more excited to hear that legendary rugby union player-turned-journalist, Peter FitzSimons, would be in attendance on the day.

“He was absolutely beside himself when he got that news,” Kate says. “He’s very unassuming and doesn’t see anything that he does as special. Even his mates are used to it now and think, ‘It’s just what Sammy does’. I’m really proud of him. I know I’m his mother, but he’s absolutely gone above and beyond in so many ways.”

Among his many accolades and accomplishments, Sam was awarded the Young Achiever in Community Service award at this year’s Tweed Australia Day ceremony.

“I didn’t think I was going to get it, but I went, and they said my name and I thought, ‘Wow’,” Sam says. “I was pretty numb that it happened. The man said for everyone to stand up and that was really cool – to get a standing ovation.”

Sam says that was the first time he’s really been recognised on a large scale – and we’re putting our money on the fact that it won’t be his last.

“I am extremely impressed with (Samuel Smith’s) community spirit. It is precisely what we, as Australians, must do in these difficult times – turn to each other, and not on each other. We need more Sams,”
– Peter FitzSimons

Words // Anastasia White & Belinda Glindemann

About The Author

Belinda Glindemann

Belinda knew she was destined for a career in communications and publishing from the age of 11 when her Year 6 teacher introduced her to poster projects and glitter pens. She completed her journalism cadetship in the Whitsundays and went on to hold various newspaper and magazine editor roles across Brisbane in a media career spanning more than a decade. When Belinda's not writing for haven, she runs her own PR agency, kid-wrangles two young daughters and drinks way too much sweet tea.

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