JACKSON, Miss., May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Mississippi's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Logan Thornton, 18, of Hattiesburg and Amelia Cook, 13, of Pascagoula, were recognized this weekend for their outstanding volunteer service during the 25th annual, and first-ever virtual, Prudential Spirit of Community Awards national recognition celebration.
In recognition of the spirit of service that they have demonstrated in their communities, Logan and Amelia – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – were also each given $2,500 to donate toward the local COVID-19 response efforts of a nonprofit organization of their choice. These funds come in addition to the $1,000 scholarship and engraved silver medallion they earned as Mississippi's top youth volunteers of 2020.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Logan and Amelia Mississippi's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February.
"Over the past 25 years, this program has honored students spanning three generations, and the common thread between them has been the determination of young people to respond to the challenges of the moment," said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. "Who better than this group of young leaders from all over the country to help identify and direct resources to community needs arising from COVID-19?"
As State Honorees, Logan and Amelia also earned an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the program's annual national recognition events; the trip, however, was canceled due to COVID-19 and changed to a three-day online celebration this past weekend. In addition to remarks and congratulations from actress Kristen Bell, honorees had opportunities to connect with each other through online project-sharing sessions, learn about service and advocacy from accomplished past Spirit of Community honorees, hear congratulatory remarks from Lowrey and NASSP Executive Director and CEO JoAnn Bartoletti, and more.
"We admire these young leaders for their ability to assess the needs of the communities they serve and find meaningful ways to address them," said Bartoletti. "At a time when everyone is looking for optimism, these students are a bright light for their peers and the adults in their lives."
About the Honorees
Logan (pictured left), a senior at Purvis High School, collects used children's rehabilitation equipment from families that no longer need it, cleans and makes necessary repairs, and then delivers it to children with disabilities who couldn't otherwise afford it. Logan embarked on his equipment exchange program after his mother, a pediatric physical therapist, introduced him to a little boy being treated for a spinal cord injury. "His family was not able to buy him the equipment he needed to go to school and be independent," said Logan. "My heart hurt for him. He told me he just wanted to be a 'regular boy.'" Logan found him a power wheelchair. "Just seeing the delight on his face was enough to make me continue," he said.
Since then, Logan has located equipment for more than 40 children and has donated more than 30 other pieces of equipment to a summer camp for children with disabilities, where he has volunteered for several years. He relies on his mother to identify families in need of rehabilitation equipment, as well as those with children who have outgrown their equipment or simply no longer need it. He coordinates a process to match donors and recipients, then picks up the donated equipment and stores it in a friend's basement. He makes any needed repairs and asks a local company to modify it to ensure a proper fit for the new owner. "I have learned so much about children with disabilities and how their disability should not keep them from participating in everything everywhere," said Logan.
Amelia (pictured right), a seventh-grader at Resurrection Catholic Middle/High School, raises money for a wide array of causes by baking cakes and cookies and selling them through a Facebook page. "I have always had a desire to help others," said Amelia. Her earliest efforts involved a series of lemonade stands that raised funds for, among many other things, an international humanitarian agency that provides food, schooling and basic necessities for children in other countries. As a result of her efforts, Amelia learned of an orphaned girl who needed extensive cleft palate surgery. "When I saw the picture of little Liang, I was overcome with sadness and knew I needed to do something," she said.
Having a passion for baking, Amelia started making cakes and cookies, advertised them on Facebook and received an "overwhelming" response from her community. It wasn't long before she exceeded the amount needed for Liang's surgery. Now, each week, she makes supply and grocery lists, collects cake and cookie orders, does her baking, schedules deliveries and pickups, and logs all expenses and revenues. With her proceeds, she has been able to pay for part of a child's heart surgery, another child's school tuition, a year's supply of school supplies for three students and shoes for 10 children in need. In addition, Amelia's baking business has purchased a sewing machine for a single mother, barnyard animals for a family's livelihood, and gardening equipment and supplies for another family. She also helped pay to fix termite damage in her school's library.
About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
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 25 years, the program has honored more than 130,000 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. For more information about the National Association of Secondary School Principals, visit www.nassp.org. For more information about Prudential Financial, visit www.news.prudential.com.
Learn more at spirit.prudential.com
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.