12-Year-Old Takes Love of Neighbor to New Levels

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – At only 12 years old, Alexis Roberson has made more impact on her community of Caraway, Arkansas than some do in a lifetime. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, the 6th grade student at Riverside East Elementary in Caraway is seeking out any neighbor in need — whether they are in need of a meal, in need of a warm blanket, or simply in need of a smile.

Caraway is a small community west of Jonesboro, where a fifth of the population lives below the poverty line. At the age of 10, Alexis made her first big move to help someone, by giving her allowance to a friend who could not afford a book at the school book fair. That selfless act brought Alexis so much joy, she began seeking out other ways to help people.  Soon after that, she began setting up cookouts and bake sales outside Caraway’s Dollar General store to earn enough money to do some shopping for her friends who couldn’t afford school supplies.

“There was a time in my life where me and my mom struggled, and so I thought I just might want to do something nice and kind of help those kids,” Alexis explained. And she was hooked. 

Some of Alexis’ projects are organized drives, such as collecting box fans, blankets, and food for the elderly and those living in low-income housing. Others are simple, but profound acts of kindness, like assembling “survival kits” to hand out to police officers and firefighters. She also raises money each year to deliver Christmas gifts to the special needs class at her school, and in February joined friends in handing out Valentine cards and candy to strangers in and around her town. 

But it’s one profound, personal project that prompted a teacher to nominate Alexis for the Arkansas Youth Humanitarian Award.

Last year, Alexis found out about a young girl named Bailey Kelem, who was battling cancer. Alexis immediately had the idea for a coin drive, and began placing cans at businesses around town. Her efforts raised more than $1,000 for Bailey’s family and resulted in a deep friendship between the two girls.

Bailey told Alexis that she wanted to do something to help the children at Memphis’ LeBonheur Children’s Hospital and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where she had been spending so much time. Knowing Alexis is somewhat of an expert in community projects, the two girls came up with a plan to collect coloring books and coloring supplies.

She wanted to work on it when she came home from the hospital, Alexis said. But she never got the chance. Bailey passed away just a short time later.

“I decided to do it for her and in memory of her.”

Alexis worked through her grief, collecting boxes and boxes of materials for patients and their parents, and delivered them to Memphis herself.  She said it was good to know that she was doing something for her friend, and knew that Bailey was smiling down on her.

“It’s not very often that a 12-year-old has the heart that she does,” the girls’ principal, Brandi Wallace, said. “Most kids are thinking about themselves, but she thinks about everyone else before herself.”

Alexis hopes to become either an author or president of the United States one day. Or both. Either way, she plans to continue helping people in her community. For now, she has accepted the honor of being the state’s youngest Youth Humanitarian in the 40-year history of the Arkansas Community Service Awards.

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