WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Idaho's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Joseph Thomasson, 15, of Lewiston and Shelby Kettler, 10, of Pocatello, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 22nd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Joseph and Shelby – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps 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 Joseph and Shelby Idaho'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.
Joseph, a freshman at Jenifer Junior High School, has made more than 200 blankets to keep cancer patients warm during their chemotherapy treatments, after watching his older brother go through years of chemotherapy and then experiencing the treatments himself. "I have been watching my brother go through chemo since I was 3," said Joseph. And now, "being a cancer patient myself, I know how cold you can get while you are getting your chemo treatment." As a result, Joseph decided to make fleece tie blankets to help other cancer patients stay comfortable.
Joseph accepted requests for blankets on Facebook, and designed a form to enable patients at a local children's hospital to request a personalized blanket. When someone requests a blanket with one of his forms or through Facebook, he picks out fabric that he thinks the recipient will like, and then goes home to make the blanket, sometimes with the help of friends. He personally delivers his blankets to patients who live in the Lewiston area and children being treated at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital; otherwise, he mails them. He also has delivered blankets to a day camp for cancer families. "Every time I deliver one of my blankets or mail one out, I know the blanket is bringing comfort and helping someone through a tough time," said Joseph.
Shelby, a fifth-grader at Pocatello Community Charter School, organized a collection drive at her school that gathered nearly 1,000 books for children at a local homeless shelter. "I have a big passion for books," said Shelby. "Whenever I can get my hands on an interesting book, I think about people who can't afford them." She felt particularly bad for children who are between homes and have no access to books, so she asked the manager of a homeless shelter if there was a need for children's books at his facility. The answer was a resounding yes.
With her principal's permission, Shelby announced a book drive at her school. She put up posters around the building, set up a donation box, and spoke at a schoolwide meeting to explain that she wanted to gather 200 books in one month. The response was so great that Shelby ended up with nearly 1,000 books – so many that she needed her grandfather's van to haul them to the homeless shelter just in time for Christmas. "It gave me that nice, cozy, warm feeling inside because I know that I did something terrific," said Shelby.
"These honorees have done exemplary work to contribute to the health and vitality of their communities, and we look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "Congratulations to each of these extraordinary young volunteers."
"It's a privilege to celebrate these students not only for outstanding volunteer service, but for the example they've set for their peers," said Jayne Ellspermann, president of NASSP. "These honorees prove that one person truly can make a difference."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2017 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 31,000 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 22 years, the program has honored more than 120,000 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, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media.
For B-roll of Idaho's honorees at the 2017 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or email@example.com.
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SOURCE Prudential Insurance