Maeve O’Connor, 12, a sixth-grader at Belinder Elementary School in Shawnee Mission, has spearheaded an ongoing youth volunteer effort that has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the past four years to help children in need. When she was 7 years old, Maeve tried to volunteer at a local hospital, but was told she was too young. Instead, hospital officials gave Maeve and her brother and sister a list of items they could collect for patients. “We picked an item that children would like and set a summer goal of 5,000 crayons,” Maeve said. “We ended up collecting half a million crayons!” Energized by their success, Maeve and her siblings began working on other projects, calling themselves “Kids Helping Kids.” Other young volunteers soon joined their efforts. The group has collected food for hurricane victims, Christmas toys for children with HIV, books for a Sioux Indian library, and baby supplies for the children of migrant farm workers. Maeve and her helpers also sold 10,000 lollipops to fulfill the wish of a terminally ill child, and raised money to build an intergenerational playground and garden for a geriatric center. “Children are not only our future, we can be the driving force of today,” said Maeve. “Whoever said that a 7-year-old was too young to volunteer was mistaken!” Currently Maeve is raising funds to bring intergenerational arts programs into the urban core.