We've learned over and over again this past year that pandemic heroes come in all sizes, and inspiration can be found in even the youngest among us.
RIYA JOSHI: I was like, we've been playing these puzzles for years, why not kind of try making my own?
BETH LOWE: Look at these kids that are dressed up and looking presidential.
I want to start a business, so other girls will feel beautiful inside and out.
- Just being able to affect some of the kids' lives. I've never seen them lose the confidence and only gain a ton.
- We've learned over and over again this past year that pandemic heroes come in all sizes. And inspiration can be found even in the youngest among us.
- Yeah. Meet Riya Joshi, a 15-year-old, Streeterville native, putting her love of words to good use. [MUSIC PLAYING]
RIYA JOSHI: I really love the ability of being able to take something I love and help other people, especially people who are feeling really isolated right now, help them learn and share the same love of words that I have.
My name is Riya Joshi, and I'm the founder of Wordy What and the creator of Detective Wordy, Chicago addition.
My love of words and the whole journey for me started when I was probably about 5 or 6. And my family and I have always had a Sunday game day, where we play word games like Scrabble and Boggle. And we even solve crossword puzzles competitively.
But as I got older, my initial desire to win turned into a love of spelling and vocabulary and words. I had an idea to make my own puzzles because I was like, we've been playing these puzzles for years, why not kind of try making my own?
So I created about three crossword puzzles, and I gave them to my parents and my sister to solve. And they loved it. So I thought, why not make more of them and make a booklet of them? I really liked doing it.
I really wanted to explore the idea of making multiple puzzles. And I made 50 puzzles when I immediately thought that it would be really great if I could spread them to people who would most benefit from solving these puzzles.
So I published this booklet, "Detective Wordy," Chicago edition. One of my main focuses in the beginning was donating to children's hospitals and then senior care facilities. I've been donating to the Chicago Public library and also to little free libraries, which are these little, little libraries across the city, where you can kind of take a book and then put one in because I wanted to reach as many people as I could with this book.
To pay for the cost of printing, I use some of my competition money like, from spelling bee. But now, I'm also selling my books on Amazon and Lulu. So the profits from selling the books go directly to printing more to donate. For every book someone purchases, it's about $12. And then, for me, the cost of printing a book is around $4. So when someone buys a book, I can print three more.
So far, I've donated over 600 books. And I've sold probably around 200 so far, which has been really great. And I'm about to receive about 100 more that I can donate really soon. So I'm super excited about that.
RIYA JOSHI: The reaction has been really great. I mean honestly, this whole thing started as such a small idea and to see it grow to this big, makes me feel so happy and so touched that I'm able to spread these books to kids and seniors.
I love making these puzzles, and I plan on making even more editions for as long as I can really. I mean, I see myself doing this at least for the rest of high school and probably even longer. I had an idea that I would create multiple different editions maybe for like a Seattle edition or a New York City edition. But then also I was thinking about making an addition for kids with dyslexia or other learning disabilities.
So I thought that reading like an umbrella organization like Wordy What would be a really great idea for this. I really hope to inspire the same love of words, especially in younger kids through these puzzles.
- Riya is still at it and has donated nearly 900 puzzle books to children's hospitals, little libraries, the Chicago Public School spelling bee, and senior living facilities in Chicago. She's also currently working on a new booklet geared toward Chicago elementary schools, set to publish soon.
- All right. Coming up next, the Obamas have inspired countless young Americans, but it's two four-year-old best friends, who are showing off that inspiration and taking the internet by storm.
BARACK OBAMA: Change has come to America.
[USA NATIONAL ANTHEM PLAYING]
SHEILA HAMPTON: I came up with the idea of rallying and Zayden dressing up as Michelle and Barack Obama because we were watching the inauguration, and when she came out, she just looked stunning. All that she represented this would be perfect the rally and Zaden.
I usually dress up all the time. I dressed her up a couple of weeks ago as Kamala Harris.
RYLEIGH MADISON HAMPTON: I dress up like Michelle Obama, the President's wife.
ZAYDEN LOWE: I dress up like Obama. Obama was the President.
BARACK OBAMA: Yes, we can.
SHEILA HAMPTON: That was Zayden's mom. We worked together for years. I'm seeing him every day. And I knew that they were close in age, close in height, so I wanted that couple look.
ZAYDEN LOWE: Ryleigh's my girl best friend.
BETH LOWE: When Sheila came with me with the idea to dress the kids up, I was excited. I was ready. I said, let me see the picture, where your idea is at. I just ran with it.
SHEILA HAMPTON: It will be perfect for them to dress up. It will give us a [INAUDIBLE] opportunity to show them today, all things are possible.
BARACK OBAMA: All things are possible.
SHEILA HAMPTON: Or whatever they set your mind to, is possible for them. Representation matter, and for Michelle and then Barack to come out there, and then they emulate them that should give them something to look up to.
BETH LOWE: The Obamas exemplify excellence. Any time you see them, they're so poised and well put together. This photo shoot kind of symbolizes the Obamas but at a toddler level. Toddlers aren't poised and put together. They're kind of chaotic. But these two toddlers, once they've got all dressed up, I can't even describe how we felt that day just watching the magic unfold because we were not expecting for them to stay still the way they did, and actually as Michelle said, nail it.
SHEILA HAMPTON: People are seeing this photo. I've seen nothing but good reports. They're telling us that they like the outfits. So we're excited about that.
ZAYDEN LOWE: Everybody's seen my pictures.
BETH LOWE: We've had so many people reach out, and, of course they say, oh, we need an autograph. We can't believe, you know, they took such good pictures. And even, thank you for bigger kids to look at them and say, oh my goodness, look at these kids, dressed up and looking presidential.
MICHELLE OBAMA: When they go low, we go high.
BETH LOWE: Seeing all of the likes and all of the 'I love its." Everyone around the world, I'm overwhelmed with joy at how much they are actually taking the time out to hit a heart on a photo.
SHEILA HAMPTON: When Michelle shared a photo, it was a real moment for us.
BETH LOWE: Here she is. One of the most influential, most loved women in the world, and she's actually called my child's name out. And I think that was really personal. I mean, my emotions were just almost speechless.
SHEILA HAMPTON: Anybody that's seen this photo, from little girls that look like Ryleigh, little boys that look like Zayden, we just let you know that they're hard working. Anything they put their minds to do, they can do it.
Ryleigh definitely would love to meet Michelle Obama. That's all that she's saying. I want to meet her. I want to meet her. So we hope that will come true.
MICHELLE OBAMA: The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them.
- Ryleigh and Zayden are currently working on their next photo shoot together. For more information, be sure to follow them on Instagram.
- All right. Now, meet Zoe Ollie, a nine-year-old CEO, who's motivating a new generation of her peers.
ZOE OLI: Beautiful Curly Me's mission is to inspire the next generation of curly and confident girls. It's all started when I was six, and I did not like my hair. And I would look at my classmates hair, and I would wish my hair look like theirs.
And so when I told my mom about this, one of the things she did is she bought me a Black doll. And then I asked my mom, why doesn't the doll have hair that looks like mine? And we started researching. And we couldn't find really any dolls that had braids and curls.
So I told my mom I want to start a business, so other girls will feel beautiful inside and out.
EVANA OLI: I think the initial shock of hearing her complain so much about her hair and ask me questions like, mommy, why is my hair not straight like my classmates? Why isn't it pretty? You know what? That hurt me to the core because no mother wants to hear their daughter is feeling that way. It wasn't something that, you know, we planned out to do in terms of launching the business. But for me as a mom, it was just more about thinking through different ways to empower her.
When we launched early 2019, we started with the dolls, Leyla and Anika, so Leyla with the curls, and Anika with the braids, as well as our satin sleep caps for girls, and dolls, as well as for moms.
Then, in 2020, Zoey's book was released, "Beautiful Curly Me" in August, as well as her, "Say it, Show it" journal. That was released earlier in 2020 as well.
As Zoey grows, the company grows with her. And so she has talked about wanting to develop a smaller doll. So we tested Bella over the holidays, and we got a really great response. And so, we're working on another new doll to launch, hopefully, later this year.
ZOE OLI: My favorite part is the customers, and people saying they like it, and saying that their daughters feel very empowered with the books and with the doll.
I'm hoping to expand Beautiful Curly Me to being a worldwide company. I hope to inspire other kids and other girls and kids who want to start businesses, and know that if they work hard, and they dream big, they can accomplish anything they want to do.
- Zoey is still making dolls, and she hopes to expand the line and get into stores nationally. For more info, heard to beautifulcurlyme.com.
- Now, ever see a two-year-old doing tricks on a skateboard? We been talking about some amazing kids, but here's an amazing dad. He's teaching skateboarding as an outlet for fun, creativity, and confidence.
ENRICO HUFANA: You could get hurt, and then, you may not want to do it again.
- It definitely hurts.
- I always get back up no matter how many times I fall.
ENRICO HUFANA: I'm guessing that translates to them when they leave the lesson. I see them grow as a skateboarder, but then, it translates to them growing as people.
- Just get back up and try again.
- It's been something that's really motivated me these past couple of years.
ENRICO HUFANA: Just being able to affect some of the kids' lives. I've never seen them lose the confidence and only gain a ton.
I've had to shut down my scheduling system. It's kind of crash because I just got flooded with lesson requests. It's just something that inspires me to just keep doing.
- I love skateboarding.
ENRICO HUFANA: My name is Enrico Hufana. I'm the owner of Little Ripper Skateboarding. It kind of all started at the skate park with my son and his cousin and a few friends. And a mom asked me if I was an instructor. She said I'd like you to teach my son.
I started to get inquiries from other parents. It became five kids, 10 kids, and then, since I've opened the indoor space, I have now new 60 kids.
- Enrico, he's nice and encouraging.
ENRICO HUFANA: I've taught anywhere from a two-year-old to a 14-year-old. I don't really have a set age. The younger they are, the more of a workout it is for me. Two feet from the ground, I'm bending down really far because we're holding hands a lot in the beginning.
- If I'm scared, he always offers to hold my hands. There is a lot of tricks that you can learn.
ENRICO HUFANA: When a kid does a trick for the first time, of course, it makes me happy to see that. Skateboarding is really more of a mental battle versus trying to figure it out physically. It's definitely a great feeling for myself, and I can just see how great of a feeling it is for them to.
I've started in 90s in high school. So I actually started pretty late. And it was a way to hang out with what ended up becoming like really long term best friends. Six years ago, I had my son. I got him his first skateboard at one. He's certainly the one that's paved the way on how I teach kids, only because he's my hardest student.
- He's hard on me, I think. It's something I understand that I have to do what I have to do.
ENRICO HUFANA: Watching him grow as a skateboarder as well as a person is been something that I've been very proud about.
I'm in commercial real estate. So there was a listing that I was working on this property. So I convinced the owners to lease the space to me. And we were able to build a handful of ramps. We just continued to grow. The future plans could hopefully be a every winter pop up in a different location, something that's bigger and definitely more inspirational.
You know, I just want to help the future generation skateboarders.
- Little Ripper Skateboarding is currently taking reservations for private lessons. For more information on how you can sign up, head to the Little Ripper Skateboarding on Facebook or Instagram.
- A big thank you to all the amazing kids out there. Keep making us proud. And for more stories like these, tune in the Windy City live on weekdays, or check us out at windycitylive.com.