Palo Alto resident Aitan Grossman, 14, is one of 75 young leaders and thinkers nationwide to have been short-listed as a semi-finalist for Huggable Heroes 2011, a community service recognition program sponsored by the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation. The teen is nominated for his KidEarth global-warming awareness project, centered on the song "100 Generations," a track he wrote the music and lyrics for, and which has been re-recorded by several groups of children across the globe.
The Nueva School student first started the KidEarth project at 12, when a reading of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" inspired him to combine his love of music with his interest in the environment and the dangers facing the planet.
"I think the environment is the biggest issue we are facing today, because it affects everything, from the weather to the economy," Grossman said.
Having started playing piano at the age of 4, the budding environmentalist says that music was the logical medium through which to get his message across.
"I decided to combine my passion with my concern, and just took it from there," he said.
Grossman organized a band consisting of fellow students and recorded the track, putting the song up for sale on iTunes, the proceeds of which will be donated to charity. Through his nonprofit organization KidEarth, he has also enlisted children from all over the world to sing and record their own versions of the song. On his website are contributions from France, Taiwan, Ethiopia, Venezuela and Botswana, a performance he recorded himself while on a family trip to Kanye.
Since he uploaded the track, his KidEarth website has received over 500,000 hits and Grossman has received emails from people all over the world, some of whom have re-recorded the song independently and in their own languages. Recently, a group of children in Argentina uploaded their version and sent it to him, with his teachers doing their part and enlisting students in Russia as well as China.
"I just want to reach out to as many people as I can," Grossman said.
The 14-year old has already received a number of accolades for KidEarth and last summer was among 32 students worldwide selected to be invited to attend an international conference on climate change in Nashville. Organized by Al Gore's The Climate Project leadership program, the event featured numerous climate experts from across the globe as speakers, including Gore.
"It was quite an experience," Grossman said.
The 25 finalists for Huggable Heroes 2011 will be announced in May, with the 10 winners selected in the summer. If chosen, Grossman will receive both a $7,500 educational scholarship as well as the opportunity to donate $2,500 on behalf of the Build-A-Bear to the charity of his choice.
"This is obviously a great honor and I'm really happy to have gotten this opportunity to potentially give so much to a worthy cause I get to choose myself," Grossman said.
Learn more about KidEarth and "100 Generations" at his website, www.kidearth.us.