Three Kids Under 16 Who Are Changing the World
Rachel Haas, 14
Even as a little girl Rachel had a big heart. She convinced her second-grade Brownie troop to forgo a trip to Disney World and donate their cookie money to a troop member in need of a bone marrow transplant. Now she wants to raise awareness about autism and other disabilities, a passion inspired by her cousin Matthew, who's autistic. "Once you get over their little quirks," says Rachel, "kids with autism are really just the same as you and me."
During the school year she volunteers for the Special Olympics as a bowling partner to Diego, a 12-year-old autistic boy. And every summer Rachel helps out at a local program for children with special needs. She also started a chapter of the advocacy group Autism Speaks at her school. Rachel understands chronic illness: In 2008 she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It's a painful condition, but she won't let it stop her. Pamela, her mother, thinks that when Rachel helps others it helps her, too. "On tough days, if I get her talking about her volunteer work, she perks up instantly."