Working Hard for Haiti, Rachel Wheeler is Honored as a Huggable Hero

Rachel Wheeler, 12, of Lighthouse Point, has raised funds for 27 homes and a 10-classroom school in Leogane, Haiti

Rachel Wheeler, 12, of Lighthouse Point, has raised funds for 27 homes and a 10-classroom school in Leogane, Haiti. Here, Rachel gets to know one of the kindergarteners over a meal during the inauguration of the new school. The community's old school was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake.

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COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (July 05, 2012) —– Rachel Wheeler of Lighthouse Point, Fla., is a little girl with a big heart who at the age of 9 decided she wanted to build a village for families in Haiti – a task many thought was impossible. Three years later, the now 12-year-old not only raised enough money to build 27 two-room homes through Food For The Poor in Leogane, Haiti, but she also raised enough funds to replace the Ecole Reap de Morel basic school that was destroyed during the 2010 earthquake.

Wheeler’s unselfish acts of kindness earned her a nomination earlier this year as a Huggable Hero by the Build-A-Bear Workshop. Build-A-Bear Workshop received approximately 1,100 entries, which were narrowed down to 80 semifinalists in March and to 30 finalists in May. Wheeler was selected as one of the final 15, from the distinguished group of 8 to 18-year-olds from the United States and Canada in June.

“Food For The Poor is extremely proud of Rachel Wheeler for winning this award. She is a very special little girl who has a tremendous love for the poor,” said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. “Because of her generosity and strong determination to make a difference in Haiti, she has greatly improved the lives of hundreds of children and their families.”

Huggable Heroes was founded in 2004 to honor and reward young people for giving back to their communities, their schools and our world.  Nikki Giampolo, 15, who lost her battle with cancer in 2002, was the inspiration behind the Huggable Heroes program, now in its ninth year.

“I am happy to be recognized by Build-A-Bear Workshop. I had dozens and dozens of these bears when I was a little girl, and I never dreamed that someday I would be getting an award from them for helping others,” said Wheeler. “I love helping people, it makes me feel good and I will continue do it for as long as I can.”

In celebration of the company's 15th anniversary, Build-A-Bear Workshop will honor its 15 Huggable Heroes by donating $150,000 toward their education and charitable causes. Each Huggable Hero will receive $10,000, $7,500 of which will go toward an educational scholarship and $2,500, from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation, will be donated to their charity of choice.

In addition to attending an awards ceremony at the Build-A-Bear Workshop headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., the 15 Huggable Heroes also will participate in a service project at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. The service project and awards celebration will take place July 18-20.

Food For The Poor, named by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.

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Wanda Wright
Food For The Poor
Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6079