Can-do kids


Tamara O'Shaughnessy


4 questions


What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be an author because I really like to write stories and to read and to create books.

What is your favorite food?

Chicken tacos.

What is your weird talent?

I can eat five scoops of ice cream without getting a brain freeze. (He likes vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips.)

Who inspires you?

Every person who does good things inspires me.


The sign simply read: "Homeless and Hungry." But for 9-year-old Ryan Skarnulis, it said so much more. It changed how he viewed the world around him.


Encountering a homeless man with the sign before a performance of "Wicked" last February, Ryan couldn’t stop wondering about the man, whether he had kids and what would happen if people didn’t help him. So as soon as the performance ended, Ryan ran outside to give the man the $10 he had for souvenir money.

Liking the good feeling it gave him, Ryan quickly decided he wanted to keep helping others. So for his 9th birthday, he decided to collect a book for every day of his life—3,285—for needy kids instead of presents. He researched 10 agencies and decided to help Reach Out and Read, a literacy promotion program that focuses on putting books into the hands of kids, especially those growing up in poverty.

"I really like to read and I want to pass it on. Reading is like a mini adventure," Ryan says.

At his June birthday party, he and his guests sorted and boxed up the books. So far, he has collected nearly 6,000 books, a number that’s constantly growing as more people send him books or drop them off at his New Lenox home.

He even got to visit a clinic to help pass out books, something he says he’ll never forget. "It was really fun and it made me feel really warm inside."

The Caroline Bentley Elementary School student, son of Scott and Jana Skarnulis, likes basketball and soccer and swims on the Joliet Jets swim team where he says he especially excels at the backstroke. He has 7-year-old twin brothers, Ben and Zach, who now are planning their own charitable efforts.

Ryan’s advice to other kids: "It’s good to do charity and it helps a lot of kids."

He has already started planning his 10th birthday. He plans to raise money to buy mosquito nets for kids in Africa to help prevent them from getting malaria.

"Other people say that I’m special, but I just think I’m a normal kid," Ryan says.

To continue Ryan’s effort, books can be dropped off or mailed to Reach Out and Read Illinois, American Academy of Pediatrics, Illinois Chapter, 1358 W. Randolph., Suite 2E, Chicago, IL 60607.


Do you know a great kid age 14 and under who’s done something amazing? E-mail names and information to [email protected]





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