One of the things I enjoy most about writing is the chance to do research and learn about interesting people, events, and facts. For instance, I just turned in an article on student activism for Teaching Tolerance magazine. Along the way, I had the opportunity to learn the stories of three remarkable young people: Rachel Beckwith, Alex Loorz, and Sarah Cronk.

Instead of asking for presents for her 9th birthday, Rachel asked family and friends to donate to charity: water, a nonprofit organization that provides clean water to people in developing countries. Rachel initially fell short of her $300 goal, but then on July 23 she died following a tragic auto accident. Word about Rachel’s death and her campaign spread and, as of August 29, people from all over the world had donated more than $1.2 million to charity: water through her webpage ( I’ve got to admit that when I first tried to read a news story about this to my wife and daughter, I couldn’t get through it without choking up. To learn more about this remarkable story, see this CBS news clip:

After seeing An Inconvenient Truth, 12-year-old Alec Loorz formed a nonprofit organization called Kids vs. Global Warming ( This past year, the now 16-year-old activist has worked to get teens to sign on to a series of lawsuits seeking to force the federal government and states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect the atmosphere as a “public trust” for future generations.

After watching her older brother struggle to fit in at high school because of his disabilities until being invited to join the swim team, Sarah Cronk formed an inclusive cheerleading squad at her school. Soon after, she helped form a nonprofit organization called The Sparkle Effect to spread the concept, and now there are more than two dozen Sparkle Effect cheerleading squads across the United States and in South Africa. Sarah recently received the $100,000 grand prize in the 2011 Do Something awards. To learn more, watch this clip from the awards show, which aired on VH1:

What a joy to learn about the work of these young activists! It renews my faith in the next generation and the ways they might make our world better. And I never would have known about any of them if I hadn’t been doing research for my article. Whether creating backstory for a novel or doing research for a nonfiction article or book, curiosity is a hallmark of any successful writer. We love to uncover interesting facts and learn new things.

Random Thought of the Week: It’s a real feeling of helplessness as you watch a hurricane approach your region and realize that, beyond taking some basic precautions, there’s nothing you can do about what’s coming. We feel very fortunate; we only had a few branches down, no water in the basement, and no power outages. Our thoughts go out to those who weren’t so lucky and suffered significant damage.

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