He’s not your average Joe


The power of the internet has made 10-year-old Joe Petraro a philanthropist, a published author, an entrepreneur, a volunteer and more.

Since the start of the internet age, bullying has become more common, leading to an increase of insecurities and self-doubt among social media users. However, there are people trying to use their digital platform for good. One of those people is East Rockaway’s Petraro.

“The Digital4Good summit was a really good event,” Joe said. “There were eight winners nationwide at the summit and I was one of them.”

The summit, which took place from Feb. 4-7 at the Google building in Manhattan, highlighted outstanding student innovators who use digital media and technology to address significant challenges in social, economic, environmental, and educational realms. Joe was honored at the event due to his Joe’s Be Kind Campaign.

“Joe’s Be Kind is a nonprofit and I campaign to foster kinder, more inclusive connected communities that promote positive mental health and change the world for the better,” Joe said.

About a year ago, when Joe was donating a lot of money to different organizations, his mom Annie gave him the idea of starting a nonprofit. Now, through his campaign, Joe raises money for underserved communities. He also focuses his efforts on donating money to any organization of his choosing, such as the Nightbirde Foundation, Be Strong, and Digital4Good’s I Can Help.

“He started an adopt a grandparent program at a nursing home in Lynbrook,” Annie said. “And over the last year, Joe raised over $100,000.”

Annie explained that Joe was able to do this through several GoFundMe’s, going live on social media for various organizations, and hosted a variety of fundraisers through his Be Kind campaign. Some fundraisers include making bracelets and selling them to selling his own merchandise that clothing companies sponsor. He also collects money from the books that he published.

“He gets paid from YouTube, Instagram, etcetera,” Annie said. “Then also old school by sitting outside, advocating and raising money for different causes.”

For the past two and a half years, Joe has been a cancer survivor so he knows how important it is to help others when they’re down. That is why Joe raised $18,000 for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center so they can install adaptive video games for cancer patients and friends of Joe.

Annie explained that Digital4Good helps kids deal with cyber-bullying. Joe, who volunteers with the organization Be Strong, was mentored on how to handle the negativity online through both organizations. With the organizations that Joe has aligned himself with, Digital4Good wanted to recognize his positive, online outreach at their summit.

“All these innovators at the summit are doing great things online and spreading it digitally,” Annie said. “And it’s almost a disservice if you keep the internet away from kids because eventually they’re going to get online and you don’t want them to fall into the bad stuff.”

Annie believes it is important for kids to learn how to use the internet for good. Some of the ways that she noted were to follow positive people and curate your social media feed so it doesn’t have any negativity on it.

“(Joe) was one of the eight winners who is using digital for good and is a young innovator because he made his own nonprofit, he’s published five books, he built wells in Africa, and now this is all under the umbrella of his Be Kind Campaign,” Annie said.

Joe raised some of the money he donates through Be Strong, which is a foundation that is trying to create a world where the youth are mentally strong, resilient, free of bullying, and hopeful. The foundation worked with Joe in a matching campaign where Joe made Be Strong bracelets and sold them for $1. In total, Joe raised about $1,600 and donated it to their campaign.

Joe visited Capitol Hill on March 7 to talk to elected officials, one of which being U.S. Congressman Anthony D’Esposito, to advocate for more support and vital funding for people with Tourette syndrome. Joe, who was diagnosed with the nervous system disorder, makes time to volunteer at the Tourette Association of America.

The myriad of organizations that Joe is associated with would not have been made possible if it wasn’t for Patty Judge, mother of Yankees great Aaron Judge’s mother. She started her All Rise foundation in 2018. Digital4Good’s I Can Help, which Joe is an intern for, hosted an event that Patty attended.

“One of Joe’s teachers nominated him to get the All Rise award for being a young leader,” Annie said. “So we met the Judge family and they introduced us to the Tourette Association, so it all started from Mrs. Judge.”

Annie said that Joe was recently in Albany fighting for more money for Tourette advocacy. She explained that Tourette is not a disability and has not held Joe back. Now, at 10 years old, Joe is not asking for a new toy, but rather a high school diploma.

“He’s getting his high school and associate’s degree in June,” Annie said.

Joe also met Arleigh Rothenberg through Patty Judge. Rothenberg is the founder and director of Spring 36, an organization dedicated to creativity and growth through video production, music and more.

“Thanks to this connection made through All Rise, Joe joined the Spring 36 Music Video Program, and has been setting an extraordinary example of teamwork, leadership, kindness, effort, and creativity,” Rothenberg said. “Joe even contributed to the choreography that will be in the official music video “Be Free” by the artist Miosotis.

Rothenberg said that she went to the recent Digital4Good summit to support Joe. She said that she is inspired by Joe every day.

What made Joe a winner at the summit, Annie explained, was not just that he is a young innovator, but also that he developed a high sense of empathy at a young age. Annie said that his emotional IQ is very similar to his intelligence IQ, and this is what will continue to make him a great leader in the future.