WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Rhode Island's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Max Hempe, 17, of Wakefield and Haylee Balme, 13, of Coventry, 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. Max and Haylee – 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 Max and Haylee Rhode Island'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.
Max, a senior at Bishop Hendricken High School, led a campaign to purchase a bullet- and stab- protective vest for a police dog in the Cranston, R.I., Police Department's K9 unit. During his years as a Boy Scout, Max developed a strong interest in the well-being of his community, and a deep respect for law enforcement. "When I learned the police K9s of Cranston did not have any protection, I knew something had to be done," he said.
Max created a plan to raise enough money to buy a protective dog vest through a nonprofit group. He established a Facebook page to appeal for donations and contacted family members, friends and corporations throughout New England for help. He also recruited fellow Boy Scouts to join his effort. It took four months for Max to finally collect the $1,050 needed for the vest, which is now protecting K9 Zeus, a purebred Czechoslovakian Shepherd. "To know that I helped make the community and its officers safer filled me with immense pleasure," said Max. "I feel I am Zeus' protector."
Haylee, a member of the Rhode Island 4-H and a seventh-grader at Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School of Coventry, led her 4-H club in collecting money and donated items to make 100 "blessing bags" for homeless people in West Warwick and Providence. As the weather turned colder last October, Haylee grew more concerned about the people she saw on street corners begging for money. She decided they could use some extra help, so she talked to her 4-H club about providing them with bags of helpful items.
The 4-Hers hit up their families for donations, local businesses were asked for contributions, and Haylee's father helped her set up a crowd-fundraising website. After collecting a sizable amount of money and products, Haylee's 4-H team met at her house to pack toiletries, snacks, hats, blankets, hand-warmers and other items into 100 freezer-size bags. They personally handed out their blessing bags at a Sunday dinner hosted by a homeless-services organization in West Warwick, and then distributed the rest through another charitable group in Providence. "I learned there are so many homeless people right here that need our help," said Haylee. "This made all of us appreciate our lives!"
"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 Rhode Island's honorees at the 2017 national recognition events, contact Prudential's Harold Banks at (973) 216-4833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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SOURCE Prudential Insurance