Surrounded by the giving spirit of the holiday season, it is only fitting that the local charity organization Kids Helping Kids of San Marcos High School has been named the winner of the Subway High School Heroes contest, earning $20,000 that will enable Kids Helping Kids to reach its fundraising goal.

Kids Helping Kids entered the competition in early November after being nominated by member Claire Burdick. The nominees were then reviewed by Subway, and a select number of contestants moved on to the next round of the competition.

The contest’s preliminary stages took place on the social media Web site Facebook, where registered users were able to vote once a day for their favorite high school group. The contestants, all outstanding student organizations, were grouped into categories according to the size of the high school they attended. Finalists were those groups that had received the most votes in their perspective bracket.

Despite a late entry, Kids Helping Kids enlisted the aid of the community to surge in the polls.

“It was truly a grassroots effort in every way,” said Jamie DeVries, a teacher at San Marcos and president of Kids Helping Kids. “I knew that once we got past the preliminary rounds, and Subway had a chance to see what my students could do, they couldn’t say no.”

DeVries teaches Advanced Placement Economics, through which Kids Helping Kids was developed and now operates.

When Kids Helping Kids became a finalist in the Subway High School Heroes contest, members faced a new challenge — to film, edit and produce a one-minute video that portrayed Kids Helping Kids and its mission. This all had to be done in the duration of one week.

“When making the video we had to keep several key things in mind,” said Nick Carney, the director of marketing for Kids Helping Kids. “We wanted to explain what we have done in the past, and how that qualified why we deserved to win the $20,000 grand prize and national recognition. It was difficult to convey so much information in such little time.”

Carney also made contributions to the video sent to Subway, which was the work of students Aaron Dalton and Cole Erickson.

The video was submitted and sent to Subway on Nov. 21 as Kids Helping Kids eagerly anticipated the verdict. Nearly a month later, they heard back.

Burdick, the member of Kids Helping Kids who nominated the organization, was contacted by Subway early Monday with the news that Kids Helping Kids had won the $20,000 grand prize from the Subway High School Heroes contest.

With the additional $20,000 under their belt, members of Kids Helping Kids aim to improve more lives by making a difference in both the local and global communities. Kids Helping Kids is also hosting a benefit concert at The Granada on Jan. 7 with platinum-recording, Grammy-nominated Sara Bareilles headlining the event. Singer/songwriter Tyrone Wells will open. Click here to purchase tickets online.

As with all of the money raised by Kids Helping Kids, 100 percent of the funds raised by the Subway High School Heroes contest and The Granada event will go directly to causes that will make a difference in the community.

“We feel truly honored to receive this award,” said Kelly Shara, chief executive officer of Kids Helping Kids. “We are excited to see it put to good use in our community and, ultimately, impact lives.”

In the past 10 years, Kids Helping Kids has raised nearly $500,000 for various causes.

Kids Helping Kids has recently set up a scholarship fund for underprivileged students at San Marcos High. Money given to the scholarship fund helps cover the costs incurred from standardized educational testing such as Advanced Placement exams, lab and music costs, as well as other various school fees. Unity Shoppe of Santa Barbara has received the aid of Kids Helping Kids since the founding of KHK in 2002.

Click here to get involved with Kids Helping Kids, or contact Shara at 805.252.5350 or

— Michael Mead is a student at San Marcos High School and a member of Kids Helping Kids.