Meet two military kids with big dreams who make a difference in the world through their nonprofit organizations.
Isabelle Richards, a current high school student, was just seven years old when she decided to support wounded veterans. She founded the program Cards and Cupcakes for our Wounded Warriors to inspire wounded or disabled veterans after transitioning out of military service.
Sharia Linton, 11, makes a difference not only in her San Diego community, but around the world through Sharia’s Closet. She collects, cleans and organizes gently used clothing and shoes for men, women and children, then helps distribute them to families who need them most. These military kids are proof that anyone can have a positive impact on the world.
Inspiration to make a difference
Isabelle grew up in a military family with her father in the Navy and two of her older brothers in the Army and Marine Corps. It’s no surprise that she was helping her mom at the Marine Corps Trials — a Paralympic event for wounded veterans — when she was very young. Isabelle noticed that not many people were there supporting the veterans.
“I felt really sad and upset for wounded warriors because I knew that they thought they were out of the fight. I know how passionate my dad and brothers are about their jobs, so I thought the veterans should be supported and loved too. Well, at 7 years old I realized what made me happy was cupcakes and cards for my dad and brothers. That’s how Cards and Cupcakes was born,” she said.
Sharia has a simple strategy for helping people around the world: “People need clothes, and every person deserves to have clothes.”
Her family founded Sharia’s Closet in 2013. Her mother, Shamine, grew up in Jamaica and witnessed extreme poverty, so she always wanted to support the poor, even after coming to the America. When young Sharia recovered from a life-threatening medical issue, the family decided Sharia’s Closet was the perfect way to say thank you for the gift of her life. Since age 5, Sharia has been involved with the project — first working out of the family’s backyard, then out of a church and now a larger distribution center.
“I remember washing shoes when I was really little, because I never wanted to give anyone anything that was dirty. Now my favorite job is packing the bags because it’s fun to make outfits and think about ways you would like to dress. The baby and toddler outfits are so cute! I like to put notes in each of the bags because it helps make a difference and inspire people,” Sharia said.
Military kids growing nonprofits
Both girls are heavily involved in their organizations, even though they are also full-time students. Isabella spends about four hours per week working on Cards and Cupcakes, either responding to messages, baking cupcakes or delivering them to events. Her company has grown in the past seven years, too. She now has a network of volunteers at 22 locations across the country. Last year, her team reached over 10,000 veterans, and experimented with many new flavors and recipes.
“I love to inspire change and make people happy, one cupcake at a time,” Isabelle explained.
And Sharia is hands-on at Sharia’s Closet, too, working most days after school and every Saturday afternoon. She has helped with every aspect of the organization, from sorting and washing donations, to folding clothes, painting shelves and packing bags for individuals. She even sits behind the front desk and welcomes everyone.
Her father is a Marine and her older brother is in the Air Force, so she makes sure some of the clothes go to young enlisted families. Other recipients include children in foster homes, homeless men and women, recovering addicts needing professional clothing, hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and refugee families in Mexico. Last year, they served 2,751 individuals who needed clothing.
“I tell everyone about Sharia’s Closet,” Sharia said. “… and often my friends come with me to help and my teachers donate too.”
Hope for the future
The girls also hope to inspire other kids. In 2018, Isabelle was named the Operation Homefront Navy Military Child of the Year. She describes the experience as both humbling and overwhelming, and it gave her a chance to network with many people and increase awareness for wounded warriors. Her message to other military kids with big ideas is, “First, make a plan and find people that can support you. Never quit on your ideas that you’re passionate about. Military kids are the strongest most resilient innovators I know.”
Sharia encourages kids to look beyond their own families and find ways to share acceptance and love with everyone.
“Even if you don’t start your own company, there are so many other ways you can help. If you’re really confident in your ideas, then you should do it because you never know — it might be your destiny,” she added.