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23 Mighty Facts About Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

For three years in the mid-1990s, kids across the country tuned in every day but Sunday to watch five teenagers from Angel Grove transform into superheroes who defeated giant bad guys using dinosaur robots called Zords. The original version of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is still beloved by many, and will be getting a movie reboot in 2017. Here are a few things you might not have known about the original series. It’s morphin time! 

1. IT WAS BASED ON A POPULAR JAPANESE SHOW.

Super Sentai was created by Toei Studios in 1975. The first iteration lasted two years, but afterward, the Rangers got a new theme every year. Japanese kids got to watch Five Rangers; Turbo Rangers; Goggle Five Rangers; Battle Fever J Rangers; Ninja Rangers; and King Rangers.

America’s Power Rangers were based on the Beast Rangers of the Dinosaur Corps, the 16th version of Toei’s Rangers. According to the Los Angeles Times, Toei chose that theme “to ride on the dinosaur fever generated by Jurassic Park.” The characters and their likenesses were licensed to Saban Entertainment.

2. IT TOOK SEVEN YEARS TO SELL THE SHOW.

Before he was the executive producer of Power Rangers, Haim Saban was a concert promoter, a theme song writer, and the producer of NBC’s Kidd Video (like MTV, but for children). On a trip to Japan to meet with animation studios, he discovered Super Sentai.

“He said to me, ‘We gotta do something with this. It's so big in Japan, but nobody else around the world is looking at this stuff,’” Shuki Levy, the show's executive producer (who wrote and scored the pilot episode), told Complex.

But when Saban was shopping around the show around, no one was interested. “For seven years I've schlepped this thing, and everyone said, 'Go take a pill or something,' because this is too weird—guys in spandex suits and dinosaurs,'' Saban said in 1993. Then he met with Fox Children’s Network president Margaret Loesch, who definitely was interested—and the rest is history. 

3. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED DINO RANGERS. 

In an interview with No Pink Spandex, Amy Jo Johnson, who played Pink Ranger Kimberly Hart, revealed that when they began filming, the show “was Dino Rangers at the time, when the show just started, before they changed the name to Power Rangers.”

4. AMY JO JOHNSON HAD DECIDED TO LEAVE L.A. RIGHT BEFORE SHE GOT CAST.

Johnson’s first six months in Los Angeles were tough. “[I was] a little discouraged, a little lonely,” she told No Pink Spandex. She had moved out to L.A. with her boyfriend, and they had broken up; she had sold everything she owned and was moving back home. Then fate stepped in: “The night before I was moving, I met this man named Walter Rainey, who ended up being my acting coach for about 10 years after that,” she said. “I went home for about two weeks. He called my parents … and was like, ‘She really should come back.’”

So Johnson came back. She had taken an acting class with Katy Wallin, who was also a casting director. “That summer ... she was casting Power Rangers in her office,” Johnson said. “She called me and said, ‘Why don’t you come in?’ So I went in and I got the job.”

5. THE ACTORS WHO PLAYED THE RANGERS WERE FOUND IN OPEN CASTING CALLS.

“Thousands of people tried out for the show,” Austin St. John, who played Red Ranger Jason, told Entertainment Tonight. “It was an open cattle call and people just came in from everywhere and I was convinced there was not a chance in you-know-what I was ever going to get anywhere near this … and I was wrong.”

The casting directors narrowed the thousands down to six groups of five teenagers. Johnson was paired with St. John, David Yost (who played Blue Ranger Billy), and Walter Jones (who played Black Ranger Zack). “We got really close, hanging out, and just sort of preparing for the auditions,” she told No Pink Spandex. “And our group ended up getting it, which was really cool.”

6. THERE WAS A DIFFERENT YELLOW RANGER IN THE PILOT.

Johnson’s audition group also included Audri DuBois, who was cast as the Yellow Ranger. The original Trini, Jones told Fusion, was “a really tough martial artist, she was really strong. She was Latin. Then she asked for more money, and after the pilot she got fired, and then they hired Thuy Trang.” You can watch the original pilot above.

7. THE ACTION SEQUENCES CAME FROM THE JAPANESE VERSION OF THE SHOW.

Rather than film their own action sequences, the show’s producers chose to keep the Japanese action “and create an American show for the rest,” Levy told Complex. “When it finally got to air, the main challenge was, because all of the action in the show came from Japanese footage, we were obligated to follow that storyline. For example, we'd get an episode where they were fighting some type of rubber-looking pig. We had no idea what the story was about, and so had to build our own around the Japanese footage … In time, we got more in sync with the Japanese, and when they saw the success of the show in the U.S. they started adjusting their work patterns to accommodate us.”

The actors would go into a recording studio to dub their lines. Jones told Fusion that the actors were rarely even in their Ranger costumes. “Only for transitioning,” he said. They never even got to be in the Zords. Frank, meanwhile, told Complex that “Because we had all of the Japanese footage, the only time we wore our suits was in the Command Center, with our helmet off.”

8. THE ACTOR WHO PLAYED ZORDON WAS FILMED ONLY ONCE.

David Fielding told Complex that his inspiration for Zordon (originally called Zoltar) was “a mythical character like Zeus or Oden, so that's the voice I was projecting when I was doing the audition.” He auditioned against just one other person, and, after auditioning with the actors cast as Rangers, booked the role.

But instead of a regular gig, he was filmed just once for a couple of hours. “For budgetary reasons they never filmed the character again,” Fielding told The Huffington Post. “They shaved all my hair off and glued my ears back. And used makeup to make my eyebrows stand out, and then painted the top half of my chest and shoulders green. I sat in front of a green screen while they filmed me because they were just going to use my head and that was it. ... If you watch the character in the show, his movements and his actions seem to be really sort of out of sync with everything.” The rest of his time playing Zordon was spent in a recording studio.

9. THEY FIRED THE WOMAN WHO VOICED RITA REPULSA—THEN RE-HIRED HER.

Barbara Goodson was part of Saban Entertainment’s stable of voice actors, and when they cast her as Rita, they told her they needed “a Wicked Witch of the West-like voice, so I did exactly what they asked,” she recalled to Complex. But after a poll, they determined she wasn’t scary enough—and fired her. “I asked them if I could try something else, but they said they would open it up to other people,” Goodson said. “And at the point, I had already done the pilot. So I said, ‘Come on guys, let me audition at least.’ I was pissed off. … I came up with that [hoarse Rita] voice out of being annoyed, and it lasted for five years.”

10. THE GREEN RANGER WASN’T SUPPOSED TO STICK AROUND.

The five original Rangers had already been cast when Jason David Frank came in to audition for Tommy, the Green Ranger—a character that was initially only supposed to appear for a few episodes. But the fans loved him, and sent letters to Saban saying so—so Saban brought him back. Frank would go on to play the White Ranger and appear in 217 episodes of the show.

11. THE SHOW WAS CRAZY SUCCESSFUL.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers began filming in September 1992 and shot for six months; the show wouldn’t debut until August 28, 1993, and when it did, it was a massive hit: By the end of 1993, the show—which aired six days a week—was the top-ranked weekday show for kids aged two to 11, and in November it took the top spot for six- to 17-year-olds on Saturday mornings as well. “The Power Rangers have captured the highest Nielsen ratings for a network children's TV show,” The Baltimore Sun wrote in December 1993.

“It's beyond anyone's expectations,” executive producer Haim Saban said at the time. “We've had so many parents write us, saying this show has created a bond between them and their kids. The parents look at it on one level, the kids on another.”

12. THE RANGERS’ COMMAND CENTER ACTUALLY EXISTS.

The exterior of Zordon’s lair is actually a building at the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, California. Dubbed the “House of the Book,” it was designed by Sidney Eisenshtat and opened in 1973.

13. THE ACTORS CAME UP WITH THEIR OWN FIGHT SEQUENCES.

Saban made sure to hire actors who could do the kinds of things superheroes might do, without a ton of direction from him: Yost and Johnson were gymnasts; Jones, St. John, and Frank were martial artists. Saban tasked Jones with coming up “hip-hop kido.” Jones told The Huffington Post that “It was something I had to go put some thought to and figure out why I was doing what I was doing and how it would be most effective … That was one of the funnest parts of the job for me, coming up with new ways to dance and fight at the same time.”

But they didn’t have much time to shoot the fight sequences, and Jones didn’t have much time to figure them out. “It wasn't like a film production where you get two weeks to do a fight and it's choreographed properly,” he said, continuing:

“It was like, ‘OK, so in the script today, you're going to be fighting in the park. Hey, how about you fight on this park bench, can you come up with something?’ And so I got 15 minutes, 20 minutes, a half hour, to figure out what I wanted to do. They give me a couple putties ... It was all really improvised and choreographed spontaneously.”

14. THE ACTORS DID A LOT OF THEIR OWN STUNTS ...

“It was fun, but it was a non-union show, so I had to do a lot of the stunts, and the helmet had three holes in it, so it was hard to breathe,” Johnson told Sharon Osbourne. “They would hang me over fire pits and things; it was very dangerous ... We did a lot of very scary things.”

Johnson told Complex that in the first season, the actors wore the suits and the helmets, and “after almost suffocating in them because the helmets only had three tiny holes to breathe through, we got stunt doubles.”

15. ...BUT THEY WERE NOT PAID WELL.

“Literally, we were being paid, I think, tops $600 a week," Johnson told No Pink Spandex of the non-union show. "No residuals; absolutely not one residual.”

St. John told The Huffington Post that “I could have worked the window at McDonald's and probably made the same money the first season. It was disappointing, it was frustrating, it made a lot of us angry … We had a lot of fun. We worked around the damn clock. We worked long, long hard hours on a non-union show. And we'll just never be paid what we should have been paid.”

The situation didn’t change much after that first season. Saban Entertainment was still raking in loads of cash from merchandising, video games, and theme parks, all capitalizing on the actors’ likenesses. “I figured after two seasons we deserved to be a union show,” Jones told The Huffington Post, “and the conversation basically went that we should all get together and talk to representation and have someone represent us for these contracts as [a] group. And that didn't work out. So three of us ended up negotiating and three of us stayed. And eventually what happened is that we just negotiated out of the contracts and moved on.”

Trang, Jones, and St. John didn’t return for the third season—which would end up being the last for this iteration of Rangers. They were replaced by Karan Ashley, Johnny Yong Bosch, and Steve Cardenas, who donned the Yellow, Black, and Red Ranger uniforms, respectively.

16. THE ACTORS WERE CALLED INTO WORK RIGHT AFTER THE DEVASTATING 1994 LOS ANGELES EARTHQUAKE.

At one point, Trang and Johnson became so close that they often slept over at each other’s houses—and they were having one of those slumber parties when a devastating earthquake hit Los Angeles.  “We went through that earthquake together, me and her,” Johnson told No Pink Spandex. “The morning of the earthquake, they called us into work!”

While Johnson agreed that it was crazy, she said that “We were all so young and alone in California …  all these people were our home, basically, so it was kind of nice to all gather on that morning ... just to make sure that everybody was OK.” They didn’t shoot an episode that day, though, because the crew didn’t show up.

17. THE THEME SONG WAS INSPIRED BY INSPECTOR GADGET.

Composer Ron Wasserman wrote the Power Rangers theme in two hours to a rough cut of the credits. “They said, 'If you can, use the word go,' and the reason being that they had such success 15 years prior with Inspector Gadget with ‘Go Gadget Go,’” Wasserman told Complex. “I think they considered it a lucky word. The next day, Fox heard it and loved it, and then the show took off. I ended up working on that show day and night, and became the go-to-guy.”

18. BRYAN CRANSTON VOICED TWO VILLAINS.

Listen closely to the villains in two 1993 Power Rangers episodes—“Foul Play in the Sky” and “A Bad Reflection on You”—and you’ll hear the one who knocks. “I did voice work for the Power Rangers years and years ago,” Cranston said in a Reddit AMA. “Someone once told me they named the Blue Power Ranger after me, his last name was Cranston. I found out years later that was true.”

19. KIDS WENT NUTS FOR THE TOYS.

In December 1993, Entertainment Weekly declared Power Rangers toys “the hottest toys of the Christmas season.” Nearly a year later, the craze hadn’t let up: According to an August 1994 Newsweek article, “Toys that normally retail for $10 are often scalped in the classifieds for as much as $65 ... The mania has prompted Toys 'R' Us to limit sales; some stores will sell only one action toy to a family. ‘Other than the Cabbage Patch craze of '83,’ says the company's chief executive, Michael Goldstein, ‘I've never seen anything like this.’” These days, people smart enough to hold onto their action figures and Zords can make a pretty penny on eBay

20. THE SERIES WAS BANNED IN OTHER COUNTRIES.

In 1994, the series was outright banned in New Zealand, dropped from two Canadian TV stations and edited on others for being too violent. It was also banned in Malaysia in 1995, but for another reason entirely—because authorities though that “the use of the word ‘morphin’ could have a ‘negative influence on children’ who associate it with the drug ‘morphine,’” according to ITN. The word was eventually censored out, and the show was allowed back on the air.

It wasn’t just the show being banned: The series’ clothing and merchandise was banned at one pre-school in New York, where teachers said kids were fighting and that it was “worse than anything [they] had seen with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or prior fads.”

Many parents thought the show was too violent from the get-go, but Saban was dismissive of their concerns. “If anybody in the world can tell me that a flower-spitting monster or a pig that tries to eat all the food on Earth is violent—oh, please, give me a break,” he said in 1993. “Our aim is to teach kids a concept like teamwork, in an entertaining way. We know kids are fascinated with martial arts, so we have that. But we show that martial arts develop self-control and inner strength, and should only be used for self-defense.” 

21. THERE COULD HAVE BEEN A BULK AND SKULL SPIN-OFF.

Let’s be happy this series starring Angel Grove’s two hapless bullies never happened. According to Jason Narvy, who played Skull, in the spinoff “Bulk and Skull kind of ran, I think, their grandmother’s hotel. And we had gotten a Mexican Elvis impersonator named Elves and wacky things were going to happen.”

22. THE SCRIPT FOR THE MOVIE WAS WRITTEN AS THE FILM WAS BEING SHOT.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie filmed for five months in Australia and, like the show, was non-union. Unlike the show, it didn't feature any recycled Japanese footage. 

“The film started off as a fairly modest project, around $18 million, and seemed to get bigger and bigger as we went along,” Paul Freeman, who played the film’s villain, Ivan Ooze, told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. “The script developed as we were making it, and at one point the producer Suzanne Todd would be sitting in the corner on set, writing the script on her laptop. In the middle of speaking lines, I'd get handed rewrites, and a producer would say: ‘Here, say this instead.’ Well, what was I going to say? There I was playing a character called Ooze, and anything was possible.”

The film—which almost starred future Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay, by the way—was released in 1995 and made nearly $66.5 million worldwide.

23. THERE ARE 20 SERIES OF THE AMERICAN VERSION OF POWER RANGERS ... SO FAR.

Much like its Japanese inspiration, Power Rangers spawned many iterations, including Power Rangers In Space, Power Rangers Ninja Storm, and Power Rangers Jungle Fury. The total number comes to 20, which doesn't include Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers, a miniseries that ran between the original MMPR and Power Rangers Zeo, or the confirmed 2016 reboot, Power Rangers Dino SuperCharge.

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Aflac's Robotic Duck Comforts Kids with Cancer
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Aflac

Every year, close to 16,000 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer. That news can be the beginning of a long and draining battle that forces kids and their parents to spend large amounts of time with medical providers, enduring long and sometimes painful treatments. As The Verge reports, a bit of emotional support during that process might soon come from an unlikely source: the Alfac duck.

The supplemental insurance company announced at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that it has partnered with the medical robotics company Sproutel to design and manufacture My Special Aflac Duck, a responsive and emotive sim-bird intended exclusively for children undergoing cancer treatment.

When a child cuddles the fuzzy robotic duck, it can cuddle back. It reacts to being cradled and stroked by quacking or moving its head. Kids can also touch special RFID chips emblazoned with emoji on the duck's chest to tell it how they’re feeling, and the device will mimic those emotions.

But the duck isn’t solely for cuddling. In “IV Mode,” which can be switched on while a child is undergoing IV therapy, the duck can help the user relax by guiding them through breathing exercises. Accessories included with the toy also allow children to "draw blood" from the duck as well as administer medication, a kind of role-playing that may help patients feel more comfortable with their own treatments.

Aflac approached Sproutel with the idea after seeing Sproutel’s Jerry the Bear, a social companion robot intended to support kids with diabetes. Other robotic companions—like the Japanese-made seal Paro and Hasbro's Joy for All companion pets for seniors—have hinted at a new market for robotics that prioritize comfort over entertainment or play.

My Special Aflac Duck isn’t a commercial product and won’t be available for retail sale. Aflac intends to offer it as a gift directly to patients, with the first rollout expected at its own cancer treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia. Mass distribution is planned for later this year.

[h/t The Verge]

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15 Amazing Kids Who Are Making The World a Better Place
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

From pint-sized activists to elementary school entrepreneurs, the digital world has been instrumental in giving a global platform to anyone who wants to make a difference—regardless of age. Need proof? Look no further than the 15 amazing kids highlighted here, each of whom is doing his or her part to make the world a better place.

1. DALIYAH MARIE ARANA

Daliyah Marie Arana
Haleema Smith Arana

Studies show that the typical American will read around five books per year. Well, 5-year-old Daliyah Marie Arana of Gainesville, Georgia, does that in a week. What's more impressive: She read more than 1000 books before she even entered kindergarten. Her love of reading became so prolific that it caught the attention of the Library of Congress, where she was invited to serve as Guest Librarian in January 2017.

“I want to inspire all the kids at my school to read more,” Arana tells Mental Floss. “I read to my 5-month-old baby brother, Demetrio, every day because I want him to learn to read before age 2!”

That same passion extends to her community, where Arana says, “I want to work with my mom to make my school the best group of readers in Georgia!” —Jay Serafino

2. GISELLE BAZOS

Gizelle Bazos
Courtesy of Ann Bazos

Nine-year-old Giselle Bazos has solved a problem that plagues kids her age: lost retainers. Her invention, the Retainer Container, prevents kids from losing their dental appliances while they eat. “I have a retainer that I lost a couple times,” Bazos tells Mental Floss. “I found it really hard, especially when you are eating, to keep it somewhere where it won’t get thrown away or broken.”

Her storage container can be worn on the wrist, so that a kid’s retainer never actually leaves their person. (Which is good news for parents, too, as it can cost as much as $600 to replace a lost retainer.) Bazos got to present her idea at the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo in the summer of 2017. Though right now she’s more focused on being a regular fourth grader than manufacturing the device, we’ll be looking out for her next brilliant invention. —Shaunacy Ferro

3. ROBBIE BOND

Robbie Bond
Photo courtesy of Michelle Bond

This past April, the president issued two executive orders that hit close to home for 9-year-old Robbie Bond. They threatened the protected status of 27 national monuments, including Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Bond’s home state of Hawaii. He knew he had to do something, so with his family he decided to hit the road. Bond's mission is to visit each of the 27 vulnerable monuments while raising awareness of the issue among both kids and adults. He’s already well on his way to achieving that goal, and tracks his progress on his website, Kids Speak for Parks.

“I love when I visit schools and interact with my peers and they tell me about their experiences visiting national parks and monuments,” Bond tells Mental Floss. “At every National Monument I have visited, the community has welcomed me and people have taken the time to educate me about the uniqueness and significance of each monument.” —Michele Debczak

4. HENRY BURNER

Henry Burner
Sarah DeNike

When a school trading post project tasked fourth grader Henry Burner with bringing in something to sell to his classmates, he didn’t want to go the traditional baked goods route. Instead, Henry made and sold his own pinback buttons with the help of his mom’s button machine. The success of his creative project spawned an idea.

“I did so well at my trading post that when I got home I asked mom whether I could ‘make real money doing this,’” Burner tells Mental Floss. He began selling his buttons at farmers markets, but when the season ended and the markets began to close, he said, "My mom suggested e-commerce and that's when the business really took off!” 

Now as the founder of Buttonsmith, Inc., Burner—who was named as one of Forbes's notable 30 Under 30 in the retail and ecommerce industry—is creating jobs in his hometown of Carnation, Washington. With a patent pending on the design, his products are available both online and in Walmarts across the country. While Burner cites "selling more than $1 million gross in 2017, being in 1600 Walmarts, [and] being able to sell custom products on Amazon" as some of his biggest achievements, he's also very conscious about the kind of company he wants to run. He's proud of Buttonsmith's "products [being] 100 percent made in the USA, being a union shop, and creating 10 good jobs for our employees!” —JS

5. AMARIYANNA COPENY

Mari Copeny
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

For years, residents of Flint, Michigan have had to deal with a water supply known to contain dangerous levels of lead and other contaminants that irritate the skin. To make sure President Barack Obama was aware of the situation, 8-year-old Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny wrote a letter to the White House in March 2016. After not hearing back for months, Copeny’s mother, Loui Brezzell, got a call from Washington: The President was coming to Flint and wanted to meet Copeny.

Known as “Little Miss Flint” from her days in beauty pageants, Copeny became a lightning rod for the water crisis in her town. “When we found out the water was making us sick, I decided I wanted to stand up and give a voice to the kids in Flint that couldn’t stand up and speak for themselves,” she told Fortune.

Copeny—who has more than 21,000 Twitter followers—has since spearheaded a charity movement to donate 1000 school backpacks to area students. In November 2017, her tireless community efforts were recognized by Central Michigan University, which presented Copeny with a $25,000 scholarship to the school. —Alvin Ward

6. SOPHIE CRUZ

Sophie Cruz
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SOZE

Sophie Cruz has proven that you’re never too young to start caring about national issues, especially when your family’s fate hangs in the balance. Her story got global attention in 2015 when, at just 5 years old, she handed the Pope a letter and a hand-drawn illustration in hopes that he could help change U.S. immigration laws, which threaten to deport her parents, who are both undocumented immigrants. The illustration was of Cruz, her family, and the Pope joining hands, with “My friends and I love each other no matter our skin color,” written in Spanish across it.

Her story continued at the Women’s March in January 2017, where she made a speech to the crowd in both English and Spanish, pleading with them to fight for immigrants around the country. “We are here together making a chain of love, to protect our families,” Cruz, who was just 6 at the time, told the massive crowd. “Let us fight with love, faith, and courage so that our families will not be destroyed.” Cruz's story has become a rallying cry for nonprofit organizations like Fighting for Families. —JS

7. ADDISYN GOSS

Addyison Goss
Courtesy Snuggle Sacks

Ten-year-old Addisyn Goss, of Fenton, Michigan, met her grandfather for the first time in 2015. He was very sick, with one leg amputated, and had been homeless for six years. “So many of his stories made me sad, and I wanted to help others that might be homeless,” Goss tells Mental Floss. With her family’s help, she bundled donated toiletries, clothes, snacks, and blankets into 50 individual bags she dubbed Snuggle Sacks, which they delivered to the homeless in Lansing and Flint. Soon they were giving out 50 each month; now it’s 500. Goss’s nonprofit has handed out 3200 survival kits so far.

“I like seeing how the Snuggle Sacks really help people,” she says. “We have met lots of very nice people, and see them over and over again. They tell us how happy they are to get a new pair of socks, or the gloves, and how it helps them stay warm and safer. That makes us feel good. And, my brother and sister help me every day, so we are very close now.” —Jennifer Pinkowski

8. RYAN HICKMAN

Ryan Hickman
Photo courtesy Damion Hickman

Ryan Hickman’s passion for the environment began early. When the 8-year-old was just a toddler, his father, Damion Hickman, would take him on trips to their local recycling center in Orange County, California. These outings inspired Ryan to launch his own recycling business, Ryan’s Recycling, with help from his community.

In just five years, Hickman has recycled nearly 300,000 cans and bottles. He has also raised more than $5000 for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a marine mammal rescue center, by selling company-branded T-shirts. “I love recycling because it helps keep trash from getting into the ocean near where we live and that helps the animals in the ocean,” Hickman tells Mental Floss. —Kirstin Fawcett

9., 10., AND 11. JACKSON, TRISTAN, AND VIOLET KELLEY

Tristan, Jackson, and Violet Kelley
Photo courtesy Heather Kelley

In the summer of 2009, the Kelley brothers—Jackson, then 10, and Tristan, almost 8—launched Backpacks for New Beginnings, a charity that provides backpacks and school supplies for underprivileged kids around the Boston area. “We wanted to create a charity where we could do more than donate money or toys," the brothers told Mental Floss by email. "We wanted it to be a charity for kids run by kids.”

They fundraise, shop for items—which also include warm clothes, toiletries, and other basics—manage around 30 volunteers, and coordinate deliveries themselves, donating more than 7500 backpacks in the past nine years. And they show no signs of stopping—especially now that their 7-year-old sister Violet has gotten involved.

Though Jackson is now a freshman in college, he still plans on staying involved from afar and during the summers, and hopes to found a new chapter wherever he ends up after graduation. In the meantime, 16-year-old Tristan is spearheading the effort at home, and Violet is preparing to take over the operation in the future. —SF

12. ROBBY NOVAK

Robby Novak

Navigate past YouTube’s sea of unboxing videos and famous cats and you’ll sometimes find someone worth your time—Robby Novak being a prime example. Since 2013, the 13-year-old has been posting videos as “Kid President,” featuring optimistic and enthusiastic addresses from his cardboard Oval Office that have promoted charitable causes, like urging people to donate clothes and meals to the needy. In other clips, he uses humor to make salient points about empathy. “Before you say something about the barbecue sauce on somebody else’s shirt, take a look at the barbecue sauce on your own shirt,” he says.

Novak’s high spirits are in contrast to his osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that causes his bones to be abnormally brittle and has prompted over 70 bone breaks in his life. Novak’s infectious energy has been viewed by—and inspired—millions, including Real President Barack Obama, who visited with Novak when he invited the performer to the White House for the annual Easter Egg Hunt in 2013. —AW

13. SUNSHINE OELFKE

Sunshine Oelfke
Photo courtesy Jackie Sue Oelfke

Most kids break open their piggy banks to buy games or toys, but 5-year-old Sunshine Oelfke found a more important way to use her savings. She started gathering up her own change after learning that a friend at school didn’t have enough money to buy milk. Sunshine’s mom, Jackie Oelfke, helped her fill a baggie with cash and take it to school, but they didn’t stop there. They decided to extend Sunshine’s good deed with a GoFundMe campaign that raised money for more kids who can’t afford milk. “I want all my friends to have milk and lunch,” Sunshine tells Mental Floss. “I want all my friends to be happy.” —MD

14. GITANJALI RAO

Gitanjali Rao
Discovery Education/Andy King

Gitanjali Rao, a seventh-grader from Colorado, won the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and was named "American's top young scientist." Her winning project? An inexpensive, portable, accurate device that tests lead contamination in drinking water and a smartphone app that analyzes the results, which she created after seeing news stories about lead in Flint, Michigan's water system. With her $25,000 prize, Rao hopes to fine-tune her invention—which she named Tethys, for the Greek goddess of fresh water—and ultimately help people make sure their water is clean. “I believe [Tethys] could have helped the people of Flint if they had it earlier,” Rao told The Denver Post. “My next step is to find out for sure.” —Kat Long

15. CARL SCHECKEL

Carl Scheckel
Photo courtesy William Scheckel

Carl Scheckel, 10, uses his love of comics to entertain soldiers and veterans. It all began when Carl (with help from his dad, William Scheckel, an adjunct professor at New York Institute of Technology) launched a website, Carl’s Comix, to post reviews of works and interviews with comic book creators. “One of my readers asked me if I would want to donate comics to veterans,” Scheckel tells Mental Floss. “I liked the idea and took 400 comics of my own and asked dealers, collectors, and creators I know if they would like to donate comics too. I raised 3500 comics!”

The Department of Veteran Affairs arranged for Scheckel's comics to be donated to a local veterans hospital and Army base, and thousands of additional donations poured in when news spread about his good deed. Scheckel plans to give a portion of these extra works to Maryland’s Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “I hope that when people get these comics, it reminds them of home and gives them something fun to do!” he says. —KF

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