Wounded warrior Jamie "Doc" Havig, program director of Team Kids, is in charge of a LemonAID stand fundraiser. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / November 16, 2012)

Team Kids is built around issuing a challenge to the younger generation.

Typically, at four elementary schools in Irvine — Turtle Rock , Culverdale, Eastshore and Alderwood — Team Kids explains a problem like homelessness or poverty. Then kids will pick a nonprofit to raise funds for and develop their own plan to do so.

It's different from the normal message sent to kids to simply keep away from bad decisions and stay out of the way, said Julie Hudash, the founder of Team Kids.

"We marginalize kids as not being able to make good choices. Team kids does the opposite," she said.

Her intent is to show kids their contributions matter.

There's a simple message she wants to communicate: "When it comes to caring … we actually think that you're more compassionate than anyone older than you."

Since the nonprofit's start in 2001, some 50,000 kids have received that message and they've raised $400,000.

The challenge until Dec. 31 will, of course, be hurricane relief. When Sandy hit, Team Kids jumped into action with its own emergency response plan.

In 2005, Team Kids started a program called LemonAID Stand Restore America in response to hurricane Katrina. It empowers kids to set up their own lemonade stands where they take donations for disaster relief.

That money is then sent to Team Kids, where 100% of it is forwarded to the Red Cross.

Within 24 hours, the team was laying plans for Sandy LemonAID stands.

"Not everyone is a special-ops Marine, but in small ways, everyone makes a difference," Hudash said.

Anyone interested in creating or visiting a LemonAID stand can get more information at teamkids.org or by calling (949) 861-4887.

"[Kids] want to do good. That's who they are right now. There's no stopping them," Havig said. "We just give them the ball and say 'run.'"

jeremiah.dobruck2@latimes.com

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck