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The ANNpower Vital Voices Initiative is a groundbreaking partnership between Vital Voices and ANN INC., the parent company of Ann Taylor and LOFT, which seeks to empower young women across the U.S. to affect global progress, invest in their communities and draw inspiration from the work in Vital Voices’ Global Leadership Network. Mary-Brent B. is a 2012 ANNpower Fellow who attended the Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. from June 4-7.  

Here is Mary-Brent’s story:

My name is Mary-Brent and I am 17 years old. I believe that giving is the only real way to make a difference during our lifetime. My goal is to help kids realize this when they are young so that they have the opportunity to spend their whole lives making a difference.

This summer I participated in the 2012 ANNpower Vital Voices Leadership Forum. The Leadership Forum was focused on helping women create sustainable change in their communities and around the globe. It was an incredible opportunity to meet girls my age who are already positive change-makers in their own communities throughout the United States. 

It was also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet women who are current global change-makers and to interact with them in a very dynamic way. Through small group discussions, I was able to meet and learn from women such as Mu Sochua, a member of the Parliament of the Royal Government of Cambodia and former Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and Inez McCormack, a leading pioneer of Northern Ireland’s civil rights movement. My mentor during the conference was Laura Alonso, a former Argentinean Congresswoman, activist, and 2008 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award winner!

These women, and women leaders throughout the world, are making such a difference – despite limited resources and the difficult challenges they face. Learning from them, and about them, shows all of us that we just have to keep trying.

I had the opportunity to participate in this amazing initiative because of the difference I have made in my own community. In 2007, my younger sister Beverly and I started an organization called Kids Wanna Help. At that time we were twelve and nine and saw that kids had few opportunities to provide meaningful input in fundraising for charity. We could participate, but we were never in a position to make decisions such as how to raise money and decide where that money would go.  For these reasons, Beverly and I decided to have our own fundraiser and give the money to the charity that we chose. 

We decided to host a fashion show to raise money for pediatric leukemia patients. But the program had a second purpose: in addition to serving as a fundraiser, we conducted a workshop before the fashion show that provided girls in third through eighth grades with information about avoiding negative peer pressure. The goal was to address this issue head-on since it was – and still is – one of the most pressing challenges girls face today.

At the first show – a sold-out event – we raised over $11,000 for pediatric leukemia patients. Due to its success, the fashion show is now an annual event.

Shortly after our first confidence building program, we added a second program, The Lemonade BrigadeåØ. For Kids Wanna Help to really accomplish what we intended – giving kids an opportunity to raise money for charity and make the decisions themselves – we needed to add a second fundraiser that would get girls and boys involved in fundraising at all levels. 

At our Lemonade BrigadeåØ Young Business Owner Workshops, kids learn business skills that will help them succeed in running any type of business. The topics at the workshop include marketing, fiscal responsibility, interviewing, creative ideas for businesses that kids can run by themselves and, of course, how to run a professional and profitable lemonade stand. At each workshop, Beverly and I explain how to responsibly choose a charity to support and invite several non-profit organizations to make presentations. The kids then have the opportunity to ask the non-profit speakers questions and learn first-hand about what the charities do. 

The Lemonade BrigadeåØ sells lemonade year round. We provide uniforms and supplies so that each team that sells lemonade can donate 100% of their proceeds to charity. 

Through Kids Wanna HelpåØ, we have found an effective way to empower the younger generation and, in the process, we have raised and donated over $103,000 to support 37 different causes. If you would like to learn more about Kids Wanna HelpåØ, visit our website at


Mary-Brent B.



Newsflash: 2012 ANNpower Fellows Mary-Brent B. and Allyson A. made it to the Final Four of Glamour‘s 2012 Readers’ Choice Award!