Not everyone will wear a black name tag and serve a proselyting mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, the Lord has declared that missionary work is the responsibility of all who follow Him (see Matthew 28:19–20; D&C 88:81). And as President David O’ McKay, the ninth president of the Church, exhorted “Every member a missionary!”
In 2017, after being baptized and walking out of the baptismal font, Chase Hansen said to his father, “Dad, I can’t wait to go on a mission.” His father, John, replied, “Son, we are already on a mission.”
A synonym for the word “missionary” is “minister.” Although Chase and his dad do not wear the black name tag designating them as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ, they are both ministers of the gospel. According to LDS Living.com, the mission that they are on now is to empower homeless people and vulnerable children. Wanting to change the world in some way to make it better, nine-year-old Chase Hansen, the CEO of a nonprofit, has met with the church and government leaders to discuss his plans for helping to lift his community. Speaking about the work that he is doing, Chase says, “If you watch a bunch of superheroes, you usually do nothing, or you do something.”
During the financial crisis in 2011, John decided to close his business and spend quality time with his son. Together, they spent every day in “the superhero mode,” watching superhero movies. John recalls, “When he [Chase] was two or three, we would get on TRAX [Utah’s public transportation] and he would explore as a superhero. I found it was so enjoyable to follow my little son and his lead.”
While they both enjoyed dressing up as superheroes and pretending to save the world from danger, they soon came to realize that they could more than play pretend – they could become real-life superheroes by ministering to those in need. Chase recalls, “One day, Dad and I were walking [in an outdoor mall], I looked over to my right and I saw these people just looked sad and depressed. I said, ‘Dad, who are they?’ My dad said, ‘They are homeless people who are hurting and need help.’ I said, ‘Dad, we need to help them.’”
The Nonprofit Kid Labs is Born
John told LDS Living, “All the greatest stories, either from the Bible or the Book of Mormon or the ones we celebrate on the big screen . . . are meant to inspire us to either do something or do nothing. We tried. We were nada for a while.”
After attending the 2013 Salt Lake Comic-Con, Chase and his dad were inspired by the 40,000 people dressed as superheroes and began discussing how they create a base for all the superheroes. They found an old welding shop, renovated it, and after four months, the nonprofit Kid Labs – a nonprofit that empowers kids to build their communities – was born. John says:
What Kid Labs does is teach about leadership, compassion, and empathy. As parents, what we seek to do is empower, to help them [our kids] believe things are accomplishable. . .. When a little boy gets into a hero-mode, and a little girl gets into a princess-mode, there’s an energy associated with our souls that comes out. If you leverage that, teach them about leadership, help them get into the character they borrow from princesses and heroes, they would ninja charge everything.
Kid Labs was developed for both children and their families, It provides a range of classes, including parenting classes, robotics classes, yoga classes, and leadership classes for kids. LDS Living reports that John and chase worked with 30 graffiti artists to spray paint their base with superhero characters. A wall built out of 300 potato chip boxes is found in the center of the base. Written on the wall in huge letters, is the word “Love.” Chase explains, “If you didn’t have love you would be lost; you wouldn’t know anything; you would be empty-hearted; you would just be sad and lonely. Love is such a big word because it is just kind of keeping you alive.” His dad further commented, “Love is the answer for all things. When we had this wall, what we did is we produced an experiment. We were doing experiments, around the things that were important to us.”
Focusing on Love and Connection
Chase and John conducted 95 social experiments in Kid Labs in the first eight months after it opened. Unfortunately, Kid Labs was forced to close less than a year after opening, after being robbed of some of its funds by a volunteer. However, this setback did not deter Chase and John from their mission of helping others. For the past several years, they have been diligently seeking ways in which they could make an impressionable difference in their local community by focusing on love and connection.
With approximately 3,000 homeless people in Salt Lake City, Utah, Chase and John spent time on the streets getting to know about 120 of them. They get to know people individually as they talk to them and offer to have a meal with them. John says, “the social experiment Chase is really trying to work on right now is this social experiment around connection, around how do we really dig in.”
One of the people that Chase and his dad have been able to connect with is a man named Mike. When Mike first met them on TRAX, he was recently divorced from his second wife and had lost parental rights to his two sons. Mike had become depressed and had feelings of hopelessness. He eventually found himself homeless. Chase and John were able to help Mike see things in a different way and helped provide transportation to visit his sons every week for six months. They also gave Mike a bike so that he could get back and forth to work. With a steady job, a promotion, a safe apartment, and the hope of getting his parental rights reinstated, Mike has seen how a little love and understanding can change a life.
Mike’s story is just one example of what Chase and his dad are doing to help make a difference in the lives of others. They are in the process of reopening Kid Labs, and they have plans to teach kids in the Midvale, Utah, family shelter about leadership, service, art, and creativity. There are 200 kids and 100 adults in the shelter who do not feel the love from the community or in their lives. John says, “My goal is to discover how we can lift our community and strengthen the family by empowering the kids.”
Getting Others Involved in Project Empathy
Chase and John are striving to get more people involved with their Project Empathy. John says:
We try to create a feedback loop for the government. . .. What we want to be able to do is to connect the dots and provide immediate feedback for nonprofits, church groups, or government entities. Lifting people through connected experiences that are consistent. That is kind of the goal with Project Empathy. Focusing on getting the data back that helps the person who is listening feel valued and helps the person who is sharing feel heard.”
In July 2018, Chase was awarded a service award from Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. This 9-year-old and his dad are still working on many ideas together to “lift where they stand.” Chase says:
In the Book of Mormon, God says to love thy neighbor; that is what I want to do; to help people and take care of them and make sure they are having all they [need]. . .. I also want to serve a full-time mission, so I can teach people about God, so they can feel the same way.” So, what is this nine-year-old CEO’s goal for the future? He says, “Help make the world a better place.”