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Young Change Makers: How Eva Goodrich of SUNForGood Is Helping To Make A Difference In Our World

An Interview With Sonia Molodecky

I’d like to see a world that is kinder; where people are more helpful and less critical. If people were kinder to others, everyone would have a little more confidence in themselves and the choices they make. They would follow their dreams or passions without worrying what others think. They would be able to share their thoughts without others judging them. I think this would make the world a happier and better place.

As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eva Goodrich. She is the 11-year-old kid-creator of SUNCards. After a school assignment challenged her to find a way for “children to help our world,” Eva looked to her own life experiences for inspiration. Having struggled with anxiety since she was 8, Eva sought to create a product that would help children manage their anxiety. At just 10 years old, she created a tool, a deck of cards, to help children like her who were nervous and scared by teaching them tips and tricks to help them get through tough situations. Now her company sells these cards on her website http://www.sunforgood.com and for every deck sold, another deck is donated to a nonprofit organization that supports kids who are dealing with stressful situations like homelessness, entering foster care, being diagnosed with cancer, and more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?

Well, I’m only 11 so I guess I’m still kind of growing up, but to answer your question I live with my parents and sister in northwestern New Jersey. When I was 8, I started having anxiety. I have worked really hard to learn the tools I need to help myself. Having anxiety has changed the way I look at life. It presents a lot of challenges to everyday things, but I have learned the importance of pushing it aside in order to go after the things I want. It is this mentality that has helped me to be successful in school, to perform on stage in front of large audiences, and of course to create my business.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I think a book that has made a big impact on me is Raina Telgemeier’s Guts. She is one of my favorite authors and I can relate to so many of her books. Her graphic novels are written for kids my age. In 2019, she released Guts which was about her own struggles with anxiety. It made me feel like I was reading my own autobiography. So much of it was exactly what I have experienced in my own life. It also made me realize that it is possible to use your anxiety, or whatever it is that you are struggling with, to help others. Millions of kids read her books, and I am so grateful that she uses her experiences and talents to help us figure out this crazy world. I guess in a lot of ways she is an inspiration to me. I hope that my SUNCards are helping kids in a similar way.

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

Through my SUNCards I am trying to create a world where children feel confident in managing their anxiety. So many kids struggle with anxiety and don’t know how to deal with it. They miss out on opportunities like spending time with friends and family, trying new things, and feeling like normal average kids. These were all things that I personally struggled with. I had panic attacks when I slept over my grandparent’s house, which I had done a million times before. It was crazy! I just kept thinking, “But what if I could only manage my worries and fears?” which eventually morphed into, “but what if any kid who struggles like me could just be able to manage it?” They might be able to sleep over friends’ houses, be more successful in school, and achieve their dreams. I hope that my SUNCards are teaching kids the tools they need to help themselves be the best versions of themselves, because I know what learning these strategies did for myself.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

When I was in 4th grade my teacher assigned a project called C.H.O.W. It was an acronym that stood for “children helping our world.” The project challenged us with creating a nonprofit that could be run by kids, that in some way would help our world. While many of my classmates focused on saving wildlife, I looked at my own life to find some inspiration.

When I was 8, I started having panic attacks. It happened all the time- at school, at dance class, sometimes even just laying around on the couch at home. My anxiety eventually got to a point that I needed some professional help. I found a therapist who was really helpful, and who taught me a lot of tips and tricks for how to manage my feelings. This was the inspiration for my school project, and ultimately my company.

I created SUNCards, with SUN standing for Strategies for Undoing Negativity. Since the challenge for school was to create a nonprofit, the idea was that these cards would be available in schools, doctors offices, and other places where they would be accessible to kids who were struggling with anxiety. When I decided to turn my project into an actual business I wanted to keep that idea going, so I decided that with the sale of every deck I would set aside another deck to be donated to an organization that works with kids dealing with difficult life situations.

Living with anxiety is really hard, especially for kids. There’s already so much that we are trying to figure out, and this just adds a whole other level to growing up. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping other kids who are dealing with this.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I think the most interesting thing that has happened to me since starting SUNForGood is the changes that I have noticed in myself. When I thought about my SUNCards it was always with the idea that I would be able to potentially help lots of kids. But what I found out is that in helping others, I have noticed some big changes in the way I deal with my own anxiety.

Every time I hear positive feedback from what I am doing I feel really good about myself. I have noticed lately that my confidence has improved. It feels like with every one I help, they are helping me right back, and I never expected that.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

We’ve gotten a lot of really awesome feedback from all kinds of people that have used our cards, but I think my favorite feedback came from a social worker who uses the cards with her students who struggle with significant emotional and learning differences. She told me that she uses the cards as silent reminders for her kids by placing them on the corners of their desks during class. Nothing about this was overly surprising or interesting until she told me that many times when she tries to work with her students (7th and 8th graders), they often reject the tools she uses. They don’t like when grownups try to tell them how to manage their feelings and emotions. But when she told them that the cards were developed by a kid, their whole attitude towards them changed. They accepted them. When I heard that story I felt really good because I really am making a difference..

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

To me, making a difference means that you are doing something that improves or makes the world better. It doesn’t have to be anything big. It could be as easy as recycling, or just being kind to someone. Anyone can make a difference in the world. Sometimes I think grownups think it’s hard to make a difference in this world, but kids just do it. They don’t think about if they should or how they should do it, they just do it.

When I was in fourth grade and my class was assigned our “C.H.O.W.” project my classmates and I came up with all kinds of ways that kids could make a difference. Our projects ranged from book drives that distribute books to children in need, to saving the bees, to getting dance shoes into the hands of underserved youth. We all came up with different ways to improve our world, and it was really amazing to think that we could actually make change. We all felt really good about that possibility. I think that’s one of the main reasons why I continued to think about actually creating my cards.

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

In some ways being a kid made starting my project easy. It was a class assignment, so I was kind of forced into thinking about it at the beginning. I’m not saying that as a bad thing, I’m just saying it’s a little bit of a different situation. Turning it into a real business was definitely my choice though, and I would say that these are the important things that anyone, kids and grownups, need to know about how to become a changemaker.

First, find something that excites you and inspires you. It can be anything. The more passionate you are about it, the better. For me, it was my own personal experiences with anxiety and a school project that made me stop and think that I actually could make a difference in the world. I don’t think I ever would have thought to do something like this on my own.

Second, don’t take no for an answer. After I presented my project for school, it took about a year of me saying that I wanted to actually make my cards “for real” before my parents agreed. It’s not that they were being unsupportive, I just think they didn’t really think I was serious. So I just kept asking.

Third, surround yourself with people who believe in you and your goals. I have a great support network within my friends and family. Of course, people at my school have been very excited for me and my company as well. But my mom and I also reach out to people who we think are a good match for my company’s community. I’m still pretty young, and I have a ton to learn, so we reach out to other companies who have similar missions, to professionals who support the same causes, and of course to organizations who we would like to work with. Not everyone has always gotten back to us, but the ones who do have been very encouraging of what I am doing. I’m learning from them and it helps me feel like I am on the right track.

Fourth, just because things are hard, doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth doing. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. The harder you work at something, the prouder you are of yourself when you achieve your goals. And being a changemaker is definitely hard. It usually starts really small, so you really have to find those little moments to help you appreciate why you shouldn’t give up. Because even if you are only making a difference in the lives of a few people, that could be a life-changing experience to them.

I guess the last thing is something that I myself am still working on. It’s to dream big. A few years ago, my dad went to a business meeting where the speaker talked about how as a business owner, you should have a BHAG, or “big hairy audacious goal.” Something that is crazy out there! For me, my BHAG is to be selling 1000 products a month by the end of 2021. I’m not sure if I will get there, but I know that if I don’t set a goal I won’t have anything to reach for.

What are the values that drive your work?

I would have to say that kindness is the biggest value that drives what I want to do at SUNForGood. I think being kind is so important, and one of the ways that I look to spread kindness is through helping people. I want to help the kids who get my cards. My parents helped me to really define my goals and values by working with me to create a mission statement that drives what we are doing at SUNForGood. It reads: “SUNForGood seeks to support children with learning, social and emotional differences using simple tools to inspire confidence and help them reach their full potential.” When we think about bringing on new products or blog topics or social media posts, we make sure that they are in line with our mission. We ask, does what we are making and doing help kids and their families, and ultimately are we showing and inspiring kindness?

Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

I think checking in and hearing the feedback from people who use my cards really helps me to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m just a kid, so even though I knew I wanted to help people, it’s kind of hard to imagine that I am actually doing it. When I talk with the people from our partnering nonprofits who are giving out the donated cards to the kids they work with, they always tell me what a difference SUNCards make in the lives of the kids. We hear from all kinds of people — parents, teachers, social workers, and even kids. When I first started I got a video from another kid who thanked me for creating these cards. She said that she struggles with anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and anger issues, and felt like the cards really helped her. She was so excited about them, and about what I was doing. It makes me feel really good when I hear things like this, and it reminds me why I wanted to start this business.

In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

While I would love to see a world with no anxiety, I’m pretty sure that’s impossible. More realistically, I would like to see a world where people who struggle with their mental health can get the care they need. They would have access to the tools they need to manage and deal with it. I would also like to see those people supported and accepted by those around them as well as the larger community.

I’d like to see a world that is kinder; where people are more helpful and less critical. If people were kinder to others, everyone would have a little more confidence in themselves and the choices they make. They would follow their dreams or passions without worrying what others think. They would be able to share their thoughts without others judging them. I think this would make the world a happier and better place.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

I’m trying to do my part in creating that kind of world through my SUNCards, but if I had unlimited resources I would expand my company to include more tools to help people. I would love to create an app or software that would be easily accessible to kids and adults, or a school curriculum or assembly program that would work with kids to teach them how to deal with their emotions and be confident in themselves. I would also expand my “Give a deck, Get a deck” program to include these new initiatives to make sure that at risk youth have access to these tools and experiences as well.

I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?

I’m really fortunate to go to an amazing and very supportive school that works really hard to teach all of those things. Our core values are courage, integrity, respect, compassion, and excellence, and we spend time in and out of class learning how to incorporate these values into our lives. We have virtues of the month like kindness, and gratitude, and we talk about what they mean to us on a personal level. Many of us share our thoughts and experience and we are all very supportive of the things our classmates are saying. I guess I would like to see more schools embrace these kinds of lessons.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would say if you feel passionate about something, you should just do it. Everyone can help to make our world a better place. And you don’t have to do it by yourself. Find some friends who want to help. Making a positive impact in our world is like playing in the snow. If you put a little effort into it, even the smallest thing can roll up like a snowball and become a giant snowman.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I think if I could, I would love to meet Kristen Bell… I mean, who doesn’t want to share a meal with a real life Disney Princess! Seriously though, I have read articles about Kristen where she talks about her struggles with anxiety, but she is also a really successful actress. I love acting. I have done stage acting, background work, and modeling. It’s funny that considering I struggle with anxiety, I feel so at home when I am performing. It makes me feel so calm and in control. It would be amazing to talk with someone who I could relate to on that level. I also really like that she is so open about her life experiences and struggles. Just like Raina, I think that when kids look up to you it is important to be real and show that even though you have had struggles it doesn’t mean that you can’t be super successful. Kids need to hear those messages. With so many people trying to show how perfect their lives are over social media, kids need to hear the real stuff. It’s ok to struggle, or to be different, or not perfect. It’s those experiences that make you special.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I would really like that! We have our website, and people can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram @SUNForGood. My mom and I try to read and respond to every comment and message. We have met a lot of really great people that way. It’s amazing how many people will stop and write a quick note to us saying thank you. I never thought that my little school project would be able to help so many people.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About the interviewer: Sonia Molodecky is a Canadian-Ukrainian lawyer, entrepreneur and heart-centered warrior who’s spent more than 15 years working in human rights, international law, business, economic development, community empowerment and her own personal journey into herself. Seven years ago, Sonia left a comfortable position at one of Canada’s top law firms as a finance lawyer and National Chair of a Latin American Services Group, to co-found the Global Indigenous Development Trust. A Canadian indigenous-led not-for-profit, the organization works to empower indigenous communities and traditional knowledge systems worldwide to build natural economies and healthy futures for people and planet. Sonia has since spent time living and working with indigenous nations around the world, as a facilitator, partner, shaman apprentice and friend, gaining a deep understanding of both ancient systems and modern ways, and our interconnection with all life. She is a certified kundalini yoga practitioner, energy healing facilitator, avid adventurer and explorer of the natural world. Her passion is helping people realize their true potential as human beings based on a heart-centered path — one that is built on the energy of love, abundance, health and joy. She speaks world-wide on topics related to meaningful collaboration, life economies, the power of partnerships and the benefits of informed, empowered and engaged communities. “It is time for us to take back our human story and co-create a new vision for a world that is in harmony with ourselves, each other, the Earth and all beings,” says Molodecky. Her book, A New Human Story: A Co-Creator’s Guide to Living our True Potential. launches December 2020. You can learn more about Sonia, her book and her podcast at www.soniamolodecky.com and follow her at https://www.instagram.com/soniamolodecky or https://www.facebook.com/sonia.molodecky

Young Change Makers: How Eva Goodrich of SUNForGood Is Helping To Make A Difference In Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.