TORONTO, Jan. 31, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Once upon a time, in the land of books and publishing, Harlequin asked readers, authors and fans to help choose the recipients for the 2012 Harlequin More Than Words award—a program that recognizes and rewards women making extraordinary contributions to their community. The story continues when the winning recipients are paired up with Harlequin authors and the recipients' journeys become the inspiration for three fictional short stories.
After more than 111,000 online votes and 7,800 Facebook shares, the 2012 recipients of the eighth annual Harlequin More Than Words award are Mindy Atwood of Hilliard, Ohio, who runs Patches of Light, a nonprofit organization where anonymous angels pay the rent for parents of desperately ill children; Helen McGovern of Tacoma, Washington, who oversees Emergency Food Network, which distributes food to 67 food banks, meal sites and shelters, including those with health restrictions; and Sally Spencer of Toronto, Ontario, who manages a mentoring program that rescues at-risk children.
"We are thrilled that our readers and fans have voted for such deserving and diverse causes and the heroic women who champion them," said Donna Hayes, Publisher and CEO of Harlequin.
This year was the first time the public was invited to vote to determine the award recipients. By visiting www.HarlequinMoreThanWords.com, voters selected their favorite nominee from a list of five finalists. The three nominees with the highest amount of votes were chosen as the 2012 Harlequin More Than Words award recipients. The voting phase was open for four weeks, from October 7, 2011 to November 11, 2011.
Since 2004—the inception of the program—an internal Harlequin employee committee has selected the winners of the Harlequin More Than Words award from written submissions, which were judged on specific criteria, including capacity to inspire others and contribution to the community.
The initiative is Harlequin's corporate social responsibility program that is dedicated to celebrating the women who make a positive difference in the lives of others. Each of the honorees will receive $15,000 for her charity, equaling a total contribution by Harlequin of $45,000. Three of Harlequin's authors also donate their time and talent to write short stories inspired by the life and work of the recipients. The short stories will be available in 2013 in ebook format to download at no cost.
PATCHES OF LIGHT, a nonprofit organization that helps families of critically ill children by anonymously covering expenses to make it possible for parents to stay at their child's bedside, was almost out of funds for the 30 families currently awaiting assistance. Mindy Atwood, who founded the organization after two of her four sons faced life-threatening pediatric cancer and open-heart surgery, is delighted that she can once again provide assistance. In eleven years PATCHES OF LIGHT has assisted almost 10,000 people. "Our mission is to bring a patch of light to families during the darkness of their child's illness. Winning this award has brought me my own patch of light and reinforced the importance of our work," Mindy said.
Emergency Food Network (EFN) has been covering a growing demand for food in an awful economy, including food for people with dietary health restrictions. Executive Director Helen McGovern is thrilled that this nonprofit distributor serving more than 67 food banks, meal sites and shelters in Pierce County, Washington, can continue to feed its neighbors. "It is an honor to have been chosen by a successful and admired organization like Harlequin to participate in this experience. We are so grateful for the donation being made to Emergency Food Network to purchase food during this most difficult time," Helen said.
Youth Assisting Youth (YAY), a peer-mentoring program for at-risk children, encourages children to stay in school and helps keep them on a positive trajectory. YAY has reached nearly 30,000 children ages 6 to 15 since 1976 by assigning a positive, trained mentor between the ages of 16 and 29. CEO Sally Spencer will use the funds from this award to directly support YAY's One-to-One Peer Mentoring and Group Mentoring programs. "I am honored and humbled at being one of the recipients of the 2012 Harlequin More Than Words award. It is overwhelming to think about how many thousands of people supported me throughout this amazing and inspiring journey. And being the only Canadian winner makes it so very special. Thanks to all of the incredible support that I received, the kids at Youth Assisting Youth will be the ultimate beneficiaries and the true winners. Thank you again to Harlequin and everyone who made this possible," Sally said.
Harlequin is one of the world's leading publishers of books for women, with titles issued worldwide in 31 languages and sold in 111 international markets. The company publishes more than 110 titles monthly and more than 1,200 authors from around the world. Harlequin is a wholly owned subsidiary of Torstar Corporation, a broadly based media company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TS.B). Harlequin's website is located at Harlequin.com. Harlequin has offices in 19 countries, including offices in Toronto, New York and London. For more information, please visit www.Harlequin.com.