Hometown hero: 15-year-old creates nonprofit to comfort others
By Bill Hendrick
For the AJC
To Moriah Wilson, pillows talk — and what they say isn’t traditional pillow talk.
The 10th-grader at Pace Academy has made nearly 200 small pillows to comfort sick children, each bearing notes of love and encouragement, such as “you’re beautiful.”
“It’s pretty awesome,” Moriah says. “It’s great to inspire people, and I want to inspire people the rest of my life.”
Recently, the 15-year-old was recognized for creating her non-profit called “Lil’ Hearts of Love,” which had made pillows for sick kids at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston and Scottish Rite, Grady and St. Jude’s hospitals.
She got to meet Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and won an all-expense paid trip to the London Summer Olympic Games courtesy of the Judy Foudy Sports Leadership Academy.
Moriah also is involved with an organization called Girl Talk, a mentoring program for young girls and plays on the Pace golf team.
“It’s exciting to see young people like Moriah doing meaningful and important work through a non-profit she created,” said Johnson. “She’s a role model for us all.”
Moriah says sewing the pillows has helped her, too, because “you are helping yourself when you help other people.”
She says she started making the small pillows, each with a pocket to hold a book or card, several years ago. Because the recipients are ill, she doesn’t get to meet them, but hears from hospital employees “that they are appreciated a lot,” Moriah says.
Her mother, Ruth Wilson, says Moriah and her older sister, Victoria, 20, make the pillows.
“Some are heart shaped, some square, with a pocket to hold a book,” Ruth says. “The books are comforting and Moriah stuffs the pillows with cushion and writes a note. She’s a good Samaritan. It’s her makeup.”
Ruth Wilson says the whole family gets involved, “my husband, my oldest daughter, we get an assembly line going,” making blue or green pillows for boys, pink and purple for girls. The family pays for materials.
“The patients love them,” says Laura Schiener, of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “Parents love them. They’re something nice and soft to keep. It’s a really wonderful thing. Moriah is a wonderful volunteer. I know she will be making a difference in others lives for many years to come.”
Moriah was one of four grand prize winners of the “Choose to Matter” contest, a national leadership and community service competition.
“Service is important because you never know how people will feel when they’re going through things,” Moriah says. “It’s nice to be able to help people, often in ways you never realize.”
Sara Eden, a guidance counselor at Pace, says Moriah “came up to me” and wanted to join volunteer programs as soon as she started at Pace.
“I’ve been continually impressed with her,” Eden says. “She just kind of takes charge and gets things done and you don’t even realize it. She thinks big. She’s an inspiration.”
Moriah herself was inspired in London “to see so many people come from all over the world to support those achieving their dreams in such a positive and spirited manner.” She adds that “it has been really satisfying seeing my acts of service pay off in more ways than one.”