Bright Spots: Child plans Race for Peace

The war-torn city of Mariupol, Ukraine, is more than 15,300 miles from Tuscaloosa. But no distance is too far for this young man’s heart.

“Making a difference is important, ” Henry Hawley said.
Henry is a third-grader at Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary School. This weekend, he is hosting a Race for Peace benefiting Ukrainian children. It’s an idea he came up with all on his own.
“It’s good,” Henry said. “It’s a good thing to do. It’s pleasant. I like it.”
Henry’s mom agrees, but she’s still stunned her son is working so hard for people across the globe.
“To watch Henry be taken seriously and have the confidence and that sort of encouragement of knowing that he could do this, even though he was only 9 and even though there were parts of the process he didn’t quite know yet,” said Kristen Hawley. “We could take little, small steps and bring people together and do something good.”
The race hasn’t even started yet, and he’s already raised more than $1,500.
“Thank you so much, “Henry said. “It means the world to us, and it means the world to the Ukrainians, bless their little hearts.”
We don’t think of innocent children having to grasp worldly hardships and tragedies like the war in Ukraine. However, the Hawleys have helped Henry have a heart for hope.
“We haven’t shown him images,” Kristen Hawley said. “We’re trying to guard our 9-year old’s heart, especially a sensitive kid. But we’ve told him that these were people who, as recently as Christmas, were having normal Christmases. These little girls were dancing in their Nutcracker ballet pageants that they have practiced for. We have a little sister who’s doing ballet right now, so that really resonates with him. These were living a normal life up until a surprise day when another larger country invaded their homes and forced them to flee really suddenly, and how upsetting and distressing that would be, and so he wanted to do something to help.”
A little boy with a big heart, and even bigger dreams.
“He can inspire you just based on his heart,” said Henry’s teacher Robert Ray.  “He inspires me to want to do more.”
Registration for the 1-mile Race for Peace is Saturday, April 23 at 8 a.m at the former Bama Belle dock along the Tuscaloosa River Walk, behind Hotel Indigo.
If you want to support Henry’s cause but can’t get out to the race, you can make donations right here.
If you have an inspiring or uplifting story you’d like to share, we want to hear about it! You can submit your ideas right here.
Categories: Bright Spots, Featured