Special to the Mirror

Kate McCasland, 13, of Midlothian, has been named a semi-finalist in the 2008 Huggable Heroes search. Kate is one of 109 young people recognized worldwide and honored by Build-A-Bear Workshop for demonstrating strong leadership to help make the world a better place.

Kate was born premature and spent her early months in the hospital. Now she spends hours knitting hats for preemies and has enlisted her Girl Scout Council to allow her to teach younger girls how to knit and duplicate her project. In the first four months, they made more than a 1,000 hats. Now she has encouraged others and inspired more than 36 knitting projects ranging from hats for neonatal units to homeless shelters. Her main goal is to teach young girls that service projects can be fun!

Kate is being recognized for her work helping to encourage community service.

The semi-finalists now compete in the next round of judging. By April 17, 32 finalists will be named.

Twelve 2008 Huggable Heroes will be selected to participate in a leadership symposium and be honored at ceremonies in Washington, D.C., in July. The 12 Huggable Heroes will each receive a $7,500 educational scholarship and a $2,500 from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation to be donated to the charity of the hero?s choice.

In 2004, Build-A-Bear Workshop launched the Huggable Heroes program, searching for and recognizing young people making a difference in their communities.

From December, to early February, Build-A-Bear Workshop accepted nominations for Huggable Heroes. Young people were nominated for their volunteer and community service efforts.