Can’t drink, vote or smoke, but this Atlanta teen is changing the world

Aidan Anderson takes a selfie with kids at Adopt-a-Block, one of the causes to which the 16-year-old gives his time. CONTRIBUTED BY TOREN ANDERSON

He may have just turned 16 years old, but at a young age, Aidan Anderson has done more to help others than many people do in a lifetime.

At the tender age of 7, Aidan was a natural performer. The first time he played his blues harmonica outside a restaurant, people dropped $80 into his fedora. But unlike many children at that age, he wanted to donate the tips he earned from playing music. His mother told him about people suffering from intestinal parasites in Africa. So as a little boy with a big heart, he decided to give his money to charity in order to purchase medicine for them. Since four pills cost $1, his initial donation netted 320 pills.

Fast forward to nine years later. Aidan is 16 years old, and his philanthropic efforts are bearing fruit. The Cobb County native is one of 10 young people in 2016 to be recognized nationally for his community work by the Hasbro Community Action Hero Awards. The honor spotlights youth volunteers who serve their local communities and make a difference on a global scale.

This year alone, he has worked at a memory care center playing music for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s; raised money to fund 500 breakfast meals in education summer camps in Savannah; and addressed thousands of young people at more than 20 events across the country.

One of his passions is helping to raise funds for pediatric cancer treatment. He works with the Granting Grace Foundation for Childhood Cancer, the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Rally Foundation. “Only 4 percent of research dollars for cancer goes for childhood cancer. There are outdated medicines,” said Aidan.

Aidan Anderson with Ignacio Serra, a patient at M.D. Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, during Children Cancer Awareness Month. CONTRIBUTED BY TOREN ANDERSON

A good portion of Aidan's volunteer work is through his church, the Atlanta Dream Center. At least twice a week, Aidan and his mother make the 30-mile drive from their home to the center to worship and also help with service projects, such as the church's Adopt-a-Block effort.

He credits his mother, Toren Anderson, with instilling in him the importance of giving. “Ever since I was little, she modeled giving,” he said. In fact, he and his mother would take casseroles to shut-ins and water, food and blankets to homeless people.

Aidan, who is homeschooled, is a prolific speaker. He gave his first keynote speech at the age of 11, followed by a speech at a global youth summit in England when he was only 12. To date, he has spoken on two continents, sharing his passion for giving and encouraging other young people to do the same. Last year, he spoke at a cultural summit in Austin, Texas, that was hosted by Keller Williams Realty for its associates.

“Honestly, he rocked the house,” said Kay Evans, the Southeast regional owner of Keller Williams Realty. “People loved him. He’s got a gift for being natural and speaking. It is rare to find someone his age who has the heart that he has to help other people.”

Aidan Anderson

On his website,, he gives advice to young people about the joy of giving, and he talks about his path to giving in his own TEDx Talk.

“Aidan's time is allotted between speaking to schools and corporations,” said his mother, Toren, who Aidan describes as his giving partner and best friend. “He was on the main stage at Atlanta-based Leadercast in May with (Apple co-founder) Steve Wozniak and (University of Alabama football coach) Nick Saban, among others. He rocked it.” And friends and family know that Aidan’s impact has just begun.

Meet Aidan Anderson

Aidan will be giving out toys with hundreds of other volunteers at the Atlanta Dream Center's Annual Christmas Toy Giveaway.

Atlanta Dream Center

652 Angier Ave. N.E., Atlanta.

9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17

Aidan’s 6 Tips on Giving

1. Give the gift of you. Be real and do you. Put down the device and focus exactly on the person you are with. Any encounter without kindness and connection is not a win.

2. Find your purpose and passion in giving. Give from a place that matters to you.

3. No matter how small an act of giving, it matters.

4. Hang with givers. Your crowd needs to be the giving crowd.

5. No excuses! Giving and compassion need to be as much a part of your life as breathing, working and your relationships.

6. Think of the world as a giant mosaic. It will never be complete without you. YOU MATTER.


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