The COVID-19 pandemic added new challenges for our amazing young heroes to overcome. Many had to shift planned events to a virtual format, but that didn’t stop them from accomplishing big things! Here are the stories of two young heroes and how they and their projects thrived, even in the face of the unimaginable.

Addy Barrett – Gorilla Heroes

Every year, kid conservationist Addy Barrett and her organization, Gorilla Heroes, host a fund-raising event called Gorilla Gala to raise money for organizations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and The Ellen Fund. This fun event usually features gorilla-themed interactive games, an information booth, a virtual reality gorilla experience and a raffle with cool prizes.

In 2020, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Addy and Gorilla Heroes made the decision to pivot to an all virtual event and silent auction. They filmed some footage covering the socially-distanced activities they were able to do and also got Addy to share her thoughts with us on the process of moving to virtual. Check out Addy’s story and see how she was able to host a successful event in unusual times.

Addy is a 2019 Barron Prize winner.

Gitanjali Rao – Kindly App Launch

In early March, 2020, inventor Gitanjali Rao had planned an event to launch her latest invention, an anti-cyberbulling service called Kindly. The COVID-19 crisis escalated to a global pandemic in the days before her launch party, and the difficult decision to postpone her event was made. IYH had planned to attend and film her event for a new story, so we asked Gitanjali to keep us posted if she decided do a virtual launch.

Gitanjali eventually launched Kindly virtually in early May, 2020, and recorded her event as well as her preparations before and thoughts after. We took that footage and created this video to share with you. Even during challenging times, IYH heroes are doing amazing things for their communities and the world. Way to go, Gitanjali!

Gitanjali is a 2018 Barron Prize honoree and a 2021 winner.

Sascha Pakravan – Words4

Sascha Pakravan founded Words4 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic promote educational equity and to provide reading resources that are accessible to all Hawaiians. He has professionally recorded and posted on his nonprofit’s website nearly 80 free videos of him and his sister reading aloud. His engaging videos feature well-loved children’s books and have garnered nearly 100,000 YouTube views in the past year.

Sascha’s inspiration stems from his own frustrating experiences in elementary school and from his long-held belief in the power of education. He spent a year researching literacy initiatives and surveying over 100 parents to land on his read-aloud videos as a low-cost, high-impact strategy to address illiteracy. He also worked with educators and librarians to learn guided-reading techniques, which he incorporates into each video.

Sascha is a 2021 Barron Prize honoree.