Modern Day Heroes


Ann Sumner Thorp

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., we take a look at modern day heroes who do their best to make a difference and influence society today.


Alex Sheen, founder of Because I Said I Would

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King Jr.   

His mission: “To better society through promises made and kept.”

In 2012, Alex Sheen lost his father to cancer. As a way of remembering him, Sheen created the promise card. A promise card is a way of keeping promises by writing them down and sharing them with loved ones and family, so that they can help you keep your promise. The promise card quickly grew into a movement. Because I said I Would now consists of 5 different branches, including the promise cards. The second branch is Character Education in Schools. They share inspiring stories at school assemblies, give free resources for classrooms such as lesson plans and videos, and open student chapters in schools. The third branch is the local chapters. These volunteer chapters act as a support group and resource center for communities. As provided by the website, these chapters have: “increased volunteerism in communities, provided support for promises to improve health, strengthened family relationships, and provided a place to go to socialize and be with people who want to make a positive difference in society.” The fourth branch is the awareness campaigns. Through live presentations, YouTube, Facebook, TV, and radio, Because I said I Would has been able to continually emphasize the importance of keeping a promise. Last but not lease, the fifth branch consists of charitable projects. This branch began as a way to help people fulfill their promises to better society. From helping hurricane victims to fulfilling wishes of children with cancer, these projects have help countless people in need. Because I said I Would started with a simple promise card, but now, it has made a lasting impact worldwide. 


Maggie Doyne, founder of Blink Now

“The time is always right to do what is right.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

It all began after Maggie’s senior year of high school. Instead of going straight to college, she decided to travel around the world. She ended up in Himalayas and in impoverished villages in Nepal. While there, she met a six-year-old girl named Hima. She was breaking stones and selling them to try and earn some extra money for her family. This little girl inspired Maggie to do something for all of the children struggling in the Nepal villages. She started by helping Hima go to school through paying for her tuition, uniform, and books. Then she decided to help a few more children. However, Maggie didn’t want to stop with just a few children. She wanted all children to have a safe and nice place to stay, and this dream quickly turned into a reality over the next two years. She bought land in Nepal with all of her life savings. After gaining support from the local Nepal community and her hometown in New Jersey, the Kopila Valley Children’s Home was opened in 2008. The home now houses around 40 children and their mothers. Two years later the Kopila Valley School opened. This primary school teachers close to 350 children, many of whom are the first in their family to attend school and get an education. Starting with only her life savings comprised of mainly babysitting money, Maggie Doyne made a huge impact on a community and the children within it.


 Richard Joyner, founder of Conetoe Family Life Center

“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

A little closer to home in Conetoe, NC, Reverend Richard Joyner has created his own, unique way to help his community through increasing access to healthy foods and services. At the Conetoe Family Life Center, kids are provided with healthy food choices, taught how to grow vegetables and harvest honey, and are given an after-school education. Through community volunteers and local churches, the Center provides for the children in the community as well as their families. By learning the benefits of healthy living, the children become engaged in the community while learning the basic principles of agriculture. In the words of Richard Joyner, “The Conetoe Family Life Center is a place where the youth and community feel a sense of ownership. It is a place where they can be validated, heard, and make nonjudgmental decisions for life’s difficult problems.”


Sean Gobin, founder of Warrior Expeditions

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Before the military had access to the technology we have today, military units often had to journey for a few days even weeks before making it home. This journey home often gave the soldiers more time to process the events they had just witnessed and taken part in. However, today this journey is cut short to only a day or two. After returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Sean Gobin hiked the Appalachian Trail and discovered positive effects that such a hike can have on a soldier to help clear the mind. Earl Shaffer was actually the first one to do this in 1948 after he had gotten back from World War II. He decided that he was going to “walk the war off,” and Sean Gobin followed in his footsteps (literally). A short while later, he founded Warrior Expeditions. Veterans can go on these expeditions, often months long, at no cost to them. Warrior Expeditions pays for their equipment, food, and clothing. The veterans often travel in groups, and through this program are given time to think over their experiences. It is hard transitioning from military to civilian life, and this program offers veterans a way to begin that process by helping them come to terms with their military experience and create long-lasting friendships along the way with other veterans.


Ken Nwadike, Jr., founder of the Free Hugs Project

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Ken began his journey as the “free hugs man” in 2014. After the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013, Ken decided that he wanted to participate in the next race. However, he was just short by 23 seconds, disqualifying him from competing in the marathon. In spite of this, he decided to attend the race anyway and give encouragement to the runners. Throughout the race, he gave hugs to runners along the way. Before long, his hugging had made national news, and he continued to encourage runners and make them smile. Inspired by this, Ken is now determined to work as a peace activist. He attends protests, riots, and rallies to try and decrease any violent intensions and calm the participants. In addition to his work at protests, he also travels the country as a motivational speaker to inspire students to make a difference and keep the peace. Thanks to Ken, many have become encouraged by his determination to improve our country and keep it undivided.