“One person can make a difference, but there really is power in numbers.”
When 4-year-old Max Surprenant was shopping with his parents in Boston, they saw a man without a coat or shoes holding a sign that said, “Help me.” Max, full of questions, wanted to know how he could help people like this man who was in need. They gave the man their spare change, but even at a young age, Max knew that wasn’t enough.
Soon after, Max and his family began finding additional ways to help others. “From the beginning, we would clear out our living room and invite family and friends over to make blessing bags filled with toiletries, snack bars, bottled water for the homeless, and we also made Valentine’s Day cards for veterans,” says Max.
Max started coming up with new ideas and planning events that could raise money and collect needed items for the homeless and less fortunate. These efforts developed into a Catching Joy, Inc. “Catching Joy promotes volunteerism and acts of kindness beginning with kids, teens, and their families. We organize hands-on community service projects that youth can do to let them feel the responsibility and joy of giving,” explains Max. As the co-founder and Creative Director of Catching Joy, Max creates, organizes, and leads events, from bake sales to kids’ comedy nights, to collecting food and clothes to donate to local shelters.
As part of the 5 Minutes with a Teen Difference Maker Interview Series, which After School hosts with partner Peace First, After School’s Michael Luchies interviewed soon-to-be 14-year-old Max Surprenant. In the interview, which you can listen to below, Max talks about his nonprofit, his goals as a young changemaker, and his upcoming attendance at the #Digital4Good event, which is being hosted by #ICANHELP at Twitter headquarters. After School is sponsoring Max to attend the event, where he will win an award for his efforts.
With so many interests, school, and volunteering, Luchies asked Max how he determines what to work on and what not to do. “I keep busy, but I really love everything that I do. I remind myself that I could do anything, but I can’t do everything, and definitely not at the same time.” Max sets limits and says no when he doesn’t have time to take on new projects. He also credits his friends and family who have jumped in to help. “People really want to help, and oftentimes they just need a vehicle to do it…I’ve found that everyone really wants to jump on board.”
By getting others involved, Max is creating an impact far greater than what he could do on his own. As Max says in the interview, “One person can make a difference, but there really is power in numbers.”
Get Started Making a Difference
Max, and many of the other young changemakers who we’ve interviewed, got started at a young age. But not everyone starts young and many people aren’t sure how to get started if it’s not already something they’ve been exposed to. Luchies asked Max how others can get involved and start making a positive difference today. Max encourages young people to “think about what makes you sad or mad; what drives you crazy — and then find your courage and determination to change it…the worst thing is doing nothing.”
One of the ways that Max has been able to cause create positive change, in addition to the help from his family and friends, is through getting involved with Peace First. “Peace First has provided me with so much guidance and support, from business plans and budgets, and then organizing and leading projects too. They have really challenged me…and helped spread my message.” To get started with Peace First, visit PeaceFirst.org here.
To learn more about Max and Catching Joy, visit CatchingJoy.org.
More from Max Surprenant:
- “Kids have so much to give — time, talent, creativity, care, idealism, and imagination.”
- “With Catching Joy, I want people to see that everybody has something unique and special to give to the world.”
- “I know (#Digital4Good) will be an interesting and inspiring conference.”
- “Technology is a great tool for creating, connecting, and collaborating, and I’m just starting to take full advantage of it…I’m finding more and more ways to use technology for good and to help others.”
- “Even if you have the spark of an idea, reach out to Peace First.”