WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Pennsylvania's top two youth volunteers of 2016, Colin Harding, 18, of Pittsburgh and Grace Preston, 11, of Brockway, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 21st annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Colin and Grace – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank 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 Colin and Grace 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.
Colin, a senior at Baldwin High School, donated $7,500 worth of toys, video games, books and other items last year to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. When Colin was 13, his appendix burst, an emergency that required weeks of hospitalization. During that time, Colin made friends with a member of the hospital’s Child Life team, who invited him to hang out in the activity room or, when he was too sick to leave his room, brought activities to Colin’s bedside to alleviate his boredom. “They took amazing care of both myself and my mother,” said Colin. Even so, he found being in the hospital pretty boring as there was “not much entertainment for teens, especially those into video games.” When Colin was ready to finally go home, he asked the Child Life employees what items they wished they had to improve the stay of every child, and vowed that someday he would find a way to help.
That day came last May when Colin met with Child Life employees again to compile an updated list. He registered his “wish list” at Toys-R-Us and then solicited support from local businesses, distributed fliers around the community, held a donation event with food and entertainment at a local Harley dealership, and asked family members and friends for donations. The items he donated to the hospital included foosball, bumper pool and air hockey tables, a projector and screen for movie nights, sound and lighting systems, games and gaming items and sports equipment, as well as dolls and other toys. The day in September he delivered his trailer full of donations was a proud one for Colin. “They were not prepared for the amount of donations,” he said. Colin continues to help children as a summer volunteer working in the hospital’s playrooms and at school in a special gym class for children with physical challenges. He also volunteers with a local Cub Scout troop and helps to teach religion classes to second-graders.
Grace, a sixth-grader at Brockway Area Elementary School, has raised more than $6,000 over the past three years to improve the lives of animals in her community by selling homemade dog treats, cat toys, and flea and tick repellent. Grace become interested in orphan animals after her family adopted a dog from a local shelter. “I wished that all animals could be lucky enough to find homes,” she said. “Since my parents wouldn’t let me adopt all the animals at the shelter, I wanted to help them while they were waiting for homes.” Grace read about a girl who asked that her birthday party guests donate to a hospital’s children’s unit in lieu of buying her gifts. Grace liked the idea and decided to do the same thing on her eighth birthday, requesting donations to the animal shelter. Helping the animals felt so good that Grace wanted to do more. That was when she started “Grace’s Goodies.”
With the help of her mother, Grace found a recipe for dog biscuits, commandeered the family kitchen, and started baking. She sold the biscuits and other products at local farmer’s markets, festivals and through a Facebook page. She also placed donation cans around her town, and appealed for help on fundraising websites. With the money she’s raised, Grace has enabled the local Humane Society to purchase a storage shed, as well as other supplies such as rabies gloves. Grace also has provided animal oxygen mask kits to the fire department for pets caught in fires, helped pay for a shelter dog’s surgery, and collected pet food for families who can’t afford to feed their animals.
“By using their time and talents to better their communities, these young people have achieved great things – and become examples for us all,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “Congratulations to an exemplary group of honorees.”
“These students have demonstrated a truly remarkable level of leadership and commitment in the course of their volunteer service, and it’s an honor to celebrate their accomplishments,” said Michael Allison, president of NASSP. “We commend each and every one of them for a job well done.”
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2016 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 29,000 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 21 years, the program has honored more than 115,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
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. 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 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 2016 national recognition events, contact Prudential’s Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.