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Difference Maker

Children who lend a helping hand show they can make a difference and change the world

We highlight five kids and teens who are making a difference through volunteer opportunities, proving that helping hands can be child-sized too.

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When Wyatt was ready, he'd call her in to take a photo with a camera, since his hands were covered with clay. The photos then were pieced together to create a stop-motion movie. (His cats – Chewie, Toulouse, and Marie – "helped out" by jumping up and making holes in the clay with their paws.)

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Recently, his parents turned down a request from a TV show that wanted to profile Wyatt. "It seemed to focus on him rather than on what he's doing, or the whole issue that he wanted to address," Ms. Workman says.

Wyatt's clay modeling (he's made more than 70 sculptures of animals that he hopes to sell to fund ocean cleanup efforts) and moviemaking have led to additional ideas.

"I said, 'we need one more thing to be cool,' " Wyatt tells his interviewer. "And my mom said, 'What's that?' And I thinked and I thinked and I thinked.... [Finally] I said, 'I want to have a book.' "

True to his word, still images from the movie will be published in book form, too.

Is there more ahead?

"If I was very smart, I'd say 'Don't do anything again like this because it was so hard to do,' " Wyatt confides from his closet office.

But his website tells another story.

"I want to keep doing things to save the ocean," his entry page proclaims.

"I want to be like Martin Luther King Jr. and do something to make the world a better place."

Alexa: Building schools for the disaster-struck

Alexa Peters loves drawing – and her dog, Cooper.

Now she's turned that into a way to help others. The 12-year-old from Andover, Mass., has illustrated a picture book for children called "Cooper and Me," the story of a young girl very much like Alexa who longs to take her dog with her to her first day of school (cooperandme.com).

Three dollars from the sale of each book goes to the Happy Hearts Fund (happyheartsfund.org), created by fashion model Petra Nemcova to improve the lives of children in countries hit by natural disasters. (Ms. Nemcova herself barely survived the tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004. Her fiancé was swept away by the floodwaters and perished.)

Alexa hopes to raise $10,000 to help build three schools in Haiti through Happy Hearts. "We came upon the Happy Hearts Fund through a friend," says Monique Peters, her mother, who wrote the story for "Cooper and Me." Last February, they contacted Nemcova, and she eventually visited Alexa's home. Nemcova was so impressed that she made Alexa the youngest "ambassador" for her program.

In June, Alexa and her mom went to Peru to visit three schools supported by Happy Hearts. The children "love going to school. It's their safe haven," Ms. Peters says. Homes often have no running water, refrigeration, or indoor plumbing. "They appreciate everything. They have so little," she says.

Alexa is planning to illustrate a new book, with the story set in Peru. It may center on a 12-year-old boy they met named José, who walks for an hour each day to a larger city to sell candy to support his family.

Alexa's advice for others who want to make a difference: "Keep going. And if it's something you're passionate about, really follow that dream, and you can be successful."

Dylan: 'One Starts Many' to clean up the Gulf

Dylan Stock was in first grade when the Gulf oil spill began last April.

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