Five young people creating a better world

It's easy to ignore the homeless encampment near your neighborhood, the pollution clogging the local beach o...

Posted: Dec 12, 2018 5:31 AM
Updated: Dec 12, 2018 5:31 AM

It's easy to ignore the homeless encampment near your neighborhood, the pollution clogging the local beach or the faraway children who don't have resources to play a sport they love.

Solving those problems might seem insurmountable, but not to one group of teens and tweens who saw an issue and tackled it with passion and energy.

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Charities and charitable giving

Chemical industry and chemicals

Homelessness

Plastic bags

Plastics

Poverty and homelessness

Social and economic status

Societal issues

Society

Baseball

Baseball and softball

Sports and recreation

In advance of the 12th annual "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," CNN will showcase five extraordinary young people making a difference in their communities and far beyond.

Hosted by Anderson Cooper, "Young Wonders: A CNN Heroes Special" airs Saturday December 8, at 8 p.m. ET. These five youths will also be honored during "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" airing live Sunday, December 9, at 8 p.m. ET.

"The next generation reminds us of the unwavering foundation that really connects us all -- incredible acts of kindness, unconditional love and the promise of a better tomorrow," Cooper says.

Here are this year's five "Young Wonders":

Max Bobholz, Angels at Bat

Max Bobholz loves baseball.

After watching a Ugandan team make history as the first African squad to play in the Little League World Series, it was clear to Max that these kids loved the sport too. Many players in countries like Uganda, however, don't have access to the equipment it takes to keep a league going.

Inspired by the Ugandan team's pride in representing their country -- despite having very little equipment -- Max, now 18, decided to help. He'd been searching for a way to honor an inspirational coach who passed away suddenly in 2012, so he jumped in with both feet.

The result is Angels at Bat, a nonprofit that collects and distributes baseball equipment for children in rural Kenya. Max has traveled from his home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Kenya several times to deliver equipment and teach baseball to school-age children. The group also supports Kenyan baseball teams and tournaments.

"Teaching them baseball, it hit me like a brick," Max says. "I was a 14-year-old kid. At the time I had no idea the magnitude or the effect that it could have."

Today, Max and his group have collected close to 10,000 pieces of equipment, and expanded to include chapters in six states -- all led by teens.

Nearly every piece of equipment has #20, his late coach's number, written on it.

Learn more about Max's project.

Sonika Menon, The Birthday Giving Program

Sonika Menon throws a serious birthday party.

Birthday blowouts are a tradition for this 15-year-old and her family. When she learned there were other children in the Chicago area who didn't get the same consideration, she wanted to help. Enlisting her brother and cousins, Sonika formed the Birthday Giving Program, a nonprofit that brings birthday parties to kids and families in need.

"People aren't having parties because of affordability," Sonika says. "We want them to feel that their existence matters in the world."

The group provides a large cake and all the party supplies for a community celebration, complete with balloons, party hats and decorations. Recipients also receive a birthday bag customized for them, containing gifts such as clothing, toys, sports equipment, movie tickets or gift cards. They've delivered 500 birthday packages and counting.

Sonika's nonprofit partners with local shelters and organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club, to identify recipients, and her group joins in the celebration as much as possible.

Learn more about Sonika's project.

Liam Hannon, Liam's Lunches of Love

Liam Hannon, 11, found a creative and generous way to combat summer boredom.

Two summers ago, Liam told his parents that he didn't want to go to camp but he'd find a way to stay busy. So he started an online treasure hunt that challenged him to give back to his community. Realizing there were homeless men and women right outside the building where he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he set out to make them lunches.

In the first week, Liam loaded up a wagon and handed out 20 sandwiches with his dad's help. It quickly grew from there, and the pair have since given away more than 2,000 homemade meals from their green wagon. Liam decorates each paper bag with a positive message. His regulars know him by name.

"A lot of people treat them like they're not even humans, but they are, and this shouldn't be happening to them," Liam says.

Now Liam's group has a bigger electric wagon in the works to help increase the number of meals, and other supplies, he gives out. Ultimately, his goal is to have a Lunches of Love Food Truck.

Partnering with a local shelter, Liam's efforts grew to collecting and donating school supplies and toys for homeless children.

Learn more about Liam's project.

Melati and Isabel Wijsen, Bye Bye Plastic Bags

Isabel and Melati Wijsen don't take the Earth for granted.

Growing up on the island of Bali, the sisters have seen firsthand the harmful impact of discarded plastic on the ocean and marine life. When they were just 10 and 12 years old, they created Bye Bye Plastic Bags, an initiative to help Bali become plastic bag-free.

With a volunteer team of about 30 students, the group's efforts include beach cleanups and educating schools, families and local shops about the issue and what they can do. In its first "pilot village," the group is working to help the local shops and 800 families use alternative bags -- the girls say the village is two-thirds of the way to being plastic bag-free.

The sisters are working with students to build river booms -- which collect trash that would otherwise flow into the ocean -- and launched a social enterprise that empowers women to create alternative bags from recycled material.

"We're actually paying each woman for each bag she makes individually," says Melati. "They're resold in stores around the island and 50 percent of the profit goes back into the village, the community."

The girls' efforts are inspiring youth in communities around the world to join their movement.

Learn more about Isabel and Melati's project.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 147582

Reported Deaths: 3937
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24410780
Lake12911350
St. Joseph8651154
Elkhart8281130
Allen7756221
Hamilton5872113
Vanderburgh547750
Tippecanoe346414
Monroe316238
Hendricks3116130
Johnson2947127
Porter288948
Clark280857
Delaware277174
Vigo245534
Madison224587
Cass220120
LaPorte208853
Warrick185362
Floyd170865
Kosciusko169221
Howard155366
Bartholomew137557
Dubois133423
Marshall129826
Henry120728
Boone117748
Grant116839
Wayne114923
Hancock112844
Noble110033
Jackson106412
Morgan90840
Dearborn89528
Daviess82732
Gibson8229
Clinton80116
Shelby76929
Lawrence76732
LaGrange76114
Harrison72924
Putnam69415
Knox68610
DeKalb67411
Posey6695
Steuben5798
Miami5655
Montgomery55722
Fayette55615
White55615
Jasper5264
Greene50537
Scott50313
Decatur49339
Adams4555
Clay4266
Whitley4246
Ripley4138
Sullivan40612
Wells4045
Orange38124
Starke3787
Wabash3769
Spencer3656
Huntington3645
Franklin35925
Jennings35813
Washington3452
Randolph3318
Jefferson3275
Fulton3232
Pike31512
Carroll30513
Perry28214
Jay2756
Fountain2733
Tipton26123
Parke2152
Newton20511
Vermillion2031
Owen1991
Rush1984
Martin1930
Blackford1843
Crawford1401
Pulaski1401
Brown1283
Ohio1167
Benton1060
Union1010
Switzerland840
Warren721
Unassigned0233

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 181787

Reported Deaths: 5067
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin30590635
Cuyahoga19212671
Hamilton15890338
Montgomery9883184
Lucas8058370
Butler7856122
Summit6406260
Warren393360
Stark3605178
Mahoning3567283
Marion332149
Pickaway294646
Delaware275927
Lorain262389
Fairfield254156
Licking241065
Wood240181
Clark231654
Clermont225936
Trumbull2174134
Greene210840
Columbiana207887
Allen195873
Miami191056
Lake184757
Medina175542
Portage153067
Mercer143327
Ross130533
Wayne125968
Richland125724
Tuscarawas117822
Athens11452
Erie111453
Darke108850
Madison101314
Hancock97520
Auglaize92716
Lawrence88524
Putnam86127
Shelby85014
Geauga81950
Muskingum8174
Scioto7709
Belmont76827
Union7203
Ashtabula71348
Huron6909
Sandusky69022
Seneca57614
Preble57417
Ottawa55930
Holmes53710
Fulton4726
Henry44217
Jefferson4384
Defiance43713
Clinton42013
Jackson4197
Fayette4188
Crawford4088
Logan3923
Champaign3783
Highland3714
Ashland3705
Brown3583
Knox35215
Perry35011
Washington32423
Morrow3222
Williams3124
Hardin30913
Coshocton28612
Pike2780
Wyandot27813
Gallia27413
Guernsey2688
Van Wert2153
Meigs20512
Adams1936
Hocking1899
Carroll1887
Paulding1791
Monroe14118
Noble1120
Vinton853
Harrison763
Morgan690
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 46°
Angola
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 44°
Huntington
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 46°
Decatur
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 43°
Van Wert
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 43°
Cloudy Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events