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2007 William R. Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, Ages 18–23

Sarah Rose Varadian

Nominated by Gregory W. Sullivan, inspector general, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush asked every child in the United States to send one dollar to the Fund for Afghan Children. Sarah Rose Varadian, who was 13 at the time, turned to her parents and said, “A dollar is not enough from a teenager.” She promptly put together a children’s fair in her front yard, and with the help of her friends raised over $800 for the fund.

This impromptu fundraising event led to an ongoing interest in the plight of Afghan children. She was especially moved by the thought of children, especially young girls, being denied an education under the rule of the Taliban. In her own words,

“Education helps individuals expand their minds, care for their families and become contributing members of their communities. As I reflected on my own school; our motto, ‘Serviam;’ our mascot, the bear; and our despised green uniforms, an idea struck me. I began creating the ‘Wee Care Bears.’”

“Wee Care Bears” are the stuffed teddy bears Ms. Varadian dressed in her school’s uniform (Ursuline Academy in Dedham, Mass.) and sold to raise money. She had her mother teach her how to sew and then spent myriad hours obtaining the necessary materials and sewing the bears together, including hundreds of tiny pleated skirts to mirror her school uniform.

Ms. Varadian raised several thousand dollars throughout her high-school years by selling the Wee Care Bears. From the proceeds of those sales, she was able to sponsor the opening of two girls’ schools in Afghanistan and provide continuing support to those institutions through CARE USA. She was able to furnish Christmas gifts for two years for an entire orphanage in Gyumri, Armenia, through the Armenian Relief Society, as well as diagnostic testing for malaria and typhoid for villages in The Central African Republic and Kenya through Science With a Mission  Inc.

During her senior year of high school, Ms. Varadian trained younger classmates to carry on her project, sharing detailed instructions on making and selling the bears and advice on researching and selecting potential beneficiary organizations. The Wee Care Bears have become her legacy to her school, and they continue to raise funds for charitable causes around the world.

Now in her freshman year at Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass., Ms. Varadian has expanded her project even further through use of the Internet. She has created a website, www.wee-care.org, aimed at both teenagers who want to work on a charitable project independently and adult leaders of youth service organizations. The site contains advice and guidance on Wee Care Bear projects, along with links to charitable organizations, suggestions on sources for materials and a forum where visitors can share ideas.

Ms. Varadian has received citations from two Massachusetts governors, as well as from the Commonwealth’s House of Representatives “in recognition of creative, compassionate and innovative fundraising.” In 2006, she was honored with the President’s Volunteer Service Award and featured as a “Point of Light” on the National Daily Points of Light Foundation’s website.

For her extraordinary work and for inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, AFP is proud to present the 2007 William R. Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, Ages 18–23, to Sarah Rose Varadian.

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