WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Pennsylvania's top two youth volunteers of 2015, Conner Hagins, 18, of Johnstown and Hanna Maier, 12, of Prospect Park, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 20th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Conner and Hanna – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Conner and Hanna Pennsylvania's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Conner, a senior at Bishop McCort Catholic High School, created his own charity in 2006 that collects stuffed animals and other toys for sick children and kids in need, and raises money for a variety of children’s causes. When Conner’s father was given a stuffed bear in the hospital to help him cough after undergoing heart surgery, Conner asked if the kids in the hospital got stuffed bears. Upon hearing that they didn’t, Conner vowed “to make the hospital stays of children a little brighter by providing them with a stuffed toy to cuddle while they are alone or scared.”
He began gathering stuffed animals and other toys through annual toy drives and events such as “Dress Down Days” at area schools and a “teddy-bear toss” at Johnstown Tomahawks hockey games. He also recruited friends and classmates to help and asked local businesses to host drop-off bins. Over the past nine years, Conner’s “Cuddles for Kids” charity has delivered more than 85,000 toys, not only to kids in the hospital, but also to orphanages, child service agencies and organizations in third-world countries. In addition, Conner has collected school supplies and hygiene items for at-risk youth, and donated more than $5,000 to provide after-school meals to kids in need, support pediatric cancer research, and assist other initiatives that benefit children.
Hanna, a seventh-grader at Prospect Park School, has persuaded four Pennsylvania towns to adopt anti-bullying resolutions and initiated annual community walks that have drawn more than 700 participants over the past two years to discourage bullying and promote kindness among kids. “After being bullied by a fellow student and watching other children being bullied, I wanted to do something,” said Hanna. “I wanted to make a change for myself and for my peers.”
Hanna discussed her desire with her mother, and together they researched the issue of bullying and sought advice from national anti-bullying initiatives. Then Hanna asked her borough council to pass two resolutions declaring Prospect Park a “compassionate borough” and a “bully-free zone.” After their adoption, three other towns in Pennsylvania passed similar resolutions at Hanna’s request. Next, Hanna decided to organize a walk as “a way for other kids to get involved in spreading bullying awareness.” She asked local businesses and organizations to sponsor the walk, and raised enough money to give each participating child a free T-shirt. The first walk attracted 125 walkers, but the second drew approximately 600 after Hanna’s school district got involved. Hanna also started a kids kindness club in her town, and is using some of the money she’s raised to buy “friendship benches” for the schools in her district.
“As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, we are delighted to recognize the 2015 honorees for their exemplary volunteer service,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “These young people have demonstrated leadership, compassion and perseverance, and we look forward to seeing all they accomplish in the future.”
“These honorees represent the best of what America’s youth have to offer,” said G.A. Buie, president of NASSP. “They have set a powerful example for their peers by proving that one young person really can make a difference, and it is a privilege to shine a spotlight on their good works.”
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2015 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 33,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 20 years, the program has honored more than 100,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
For more information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year’s honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States and 35 countries around the world. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high-quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org.
About Prudential Financial
Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential’s diverse and talented employees are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds and investment management. In the U.S., Prudential’s iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit www.news.prudential.com.
Editors: For full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW
For B-roll of Pennsylvania's honorees at the 2015 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.