Most Amazing Kids of 2009

Filed under: Amazing Kids

Sometimes it feels like the world is just one big bad mess, but then you hear about the little girl who left love notes for her family as she was dying of cancer, or the high school football players that led their blind teammate into the end zone for a once-in-a-lifetime touchdown. ParentDish compiled a list of the Top 10 Amazing Kids of 2009, and we salute these outstanding youngsters for all their, well, amazing qualities.

Credit: CNN

Liberty and justice for all? Not according to 10-year-old Will Phillips. This Arkansas middle schooler refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance because he doesn't believe that one phrase, "liberty and justice for all." He says does not truly apply to all -- and specifically, that it does not apply to gays and lesbians in this country. When pushed by a substitute teacher he told her: 'With all due respect ma'am, go jump off a bridge.'" The incident blew up into a media kerfuffle after his mom vented about the incident on Twitter, but this brave boy is still sticking to his convictions.

Credit: AFP / Getty Images

Love conquers all, even cancer. Elena Desserich was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer at age 6, and died 256 days later. Before she passed away, this brave little girl left love notes for her family hidden in places where they would discover them after her death. Her parents, Keith and Brooke Desserich collected the letters and self-published them in a book, "Notes Left Behind," as a fundraiser for cancer research. The book was republished by Harper Collins, and Elena's love continues to touch millions as the new edition raises even more funding for The Cure Starts Now.

Credit: Abby Bennethum

A little girl defies the military. The U.S. Army is no match for a 4-year-old girl who doesn't want her daddy to go away from home. Paige Bennethum of Laureldale, Pa., refused to let go of her father's hand as he prepared to leave last July for a year-long deployment in Iraq. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Brett Bennethum was preparing to depart from Fort Dix, N.J., for Iraq, leaving behind his pregnant wife and two little girls. His family was there to see him off. His commanding officer didn't have the heart to tell Paige she had to let go of her daddy.


I'm not sick, I'm just bald. So says Maria Mahnken, 6, of the autoimmune condition that causes her hair to fall out. Maria, who lives in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, has alopecia areata, a disease that causes the body to attack its hair follicles. The girl -- who doesn't like to wear a wig -- doesn't want to worry strangers. That's why she hands out cards with the message: "Thank you for your concern," reads the cards she hands out. "I am not sick. I have alopecia universalis. Only my hair is sick. To learn more about alopecia, please visit Thanks! Maria." How many adults would have the courage to be so open about a disfiguring disease? We think not too many.

Credit: James Messerschmidt, Splash News

This teen gives the phrase 'taking the wheel' a whole new meaning. Rachel Guzy, a camp counselor from the Magic Carpet Day Camp in Bayside, Queens, N.Y., saved the lives of a busload of children returning from a day at a bowling alley when the driver died suddenly. Guzy, 16, kept a cool head and got behind the wheel, preventing the bus from crashing. The teen, who didn't even have her learner's permit at the time, says that she only "did what I had to do."

Credit: MSNBC

Sportsmanship defeats rivalry. The Maryville Spoofhounds high school football team did nothing to stop freshman running back Matt Ziesel from running more than 60 yards to put rival players the Cardinals on the scoreboard. That's because Ziesel, 15, has Down syndrome and spent the entire season on the bench -- begging the coach to let him get some action on the field. In a stunning and heartwarming display of sportsmanship, both teams -- normally bitter rivals -- celebrated Ziesel's moment of triumph.

Credit: Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum

A high-flying teen breaks records and racial barriers. Fifteen-year-old Kimberly Anyadike finished a record-breaking flight across the country in July, becoming what is believed to be the youngest African American female to pilot an airplane from coast to coast. Anyadike flew from Compton Woodley Airport in Compton, Calif., to Newport News, Va. ,and back, making 13 stops along the way. In the cockpit with her? Levi Thornhill, an 87-year-old World War II veteran who flew with the Tuskegee Airmen, and an adult safety pilot. It was Anyadike's idea to fly cross country. She knew it would take tremendous preparation, but she felt strongly that she could do it. The Tuskegee Airmen served as further motivation for the high-flying teen.

Credit: Valerie Kuypers, AFP / Getty Images

Sailing solo around the world. Laura Dekker was so committed to undertaking a record-breaking solo sail around the world that the 13-year-old braved the Dutch legal system. Dekker was forced to stay in port after Dutch child protection authorities intervened and prevented the teen from taking to the high seas, despite the fact that her parents supported her bid to break the world record for the youngest person to sail 'round the world. After the decision, she considered relocating to Australia to make her dream come true.

Girl represents actors with disabilities.
Kyra Ynez Siegel, 10, won the role of understudy to Abigail Breslin's Helen Keller in the upcoming Broadway revival of "The Miracle Worker" not in spite of her impaired vision, but because of it. The Eugene, Ore., girl was cast after advocacy groups asserted that Helen would have greater authenticity if played by an actress with a hearing or vision impairment. Kyra, who was injured in an accident at age 9, was cast after a national search. Her only other acting experience was in local community theater, but "The Miracle Worker's" producer calls her a "brilliant young actress."


Football players show true heart and soul.
Tyler Brown of McComb, Ohio, has been legally blind since birth, but that didn't stop him from loving football. And his fellow teammates love him in return, and showed their true team spirit by encouraging McComb High School coach Kris Alge to put Tyler in the game. Then, they helped the teen make the play of a lifetime and score a touchdown. Brown is a hero, but so is Dylan Mears, who gave up his last opportunity of the season to score so his friend could have the glory instead.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.