WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Michigan's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Sarah Maisano, 17, of Clinton Township and Ewan Drum, 10, of New Haven, 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. Sarah and Ewan – 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 Sarah and Ewan Michigan'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.
Sarah, a senior at Regina High School, has provided gift bags for more than 3,500 hospitalized children in 11 states. Sarah started volunteering at age 10 by accompanying her mother to a local nursing home, where she helped with bingo. "After that experience, I started to think about other ways that would have a meaningful impact on the people around me," she said. Sarah liked the idea of giving during the holiday season, so she decided to host a holiday party at her house and asked guests to bring gifts that could be donated to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. The event was such a hit that she did it again the following year, and then thought: "Why not do this year-round?"
Sarah began emailing corporations to solicit donations, but quickly learned that many companies could only give to official nonprofit organizations. So she spent four months filling out the paperwork to receive a 501(c)(3) designation. When Sarah's nonprofit status finally came through, she began fundraising in earnest, hosting 10 events – including a 5K run/walk – that have raised $20,000 to create care bags containing things like coloring books, crayons, jump ropes, books, puzzles and stuffed animals. Sarah's organization, called S.K.I.P ("Supporting Kids in Pain"), is now working with St. Jude's, Children's Hospital of Michigan Foundation, Ronald McDonald House and others to distribute her gift bags to sick kids. Sarah's goal is to eventually expand to all 50 states.
Ewan, a fifth-grader at New Haven Elementary School, collects food, clothing and basic necessities with his family and hands them out, while dressed as a superhero, to homeless people in Detroit twice a month. Several years ago, when Ewan and his family were in Detroit for dinner, he saw a homeless man on a street corner. He asked his parents why the man was there, and was told he had no place to sleep. "That made me sad," said Ewan. His next question was, "Can I dress up like a superhero when I'm a teenager and help the homeless?" His parents responded, "You don't have to wait!"
So Ewan and his family made 50 bag lunches and drove downtown to pass them out. Shortly after, they set up a nonprofit organization called "Super Ewan, Inc.," and began holding fundraisers and partnering with businesses and other organizations to provide food, clothing, toiletries and other necessities for the homeless. Now, Ewan dresses in a cape every other week and distributes these items on the streets of Detroit, aided by his family and other volunteers. With roughly 80 to 125 homeless people helped each month, Ewan estimates that his initiative has made life a little easier for thousands of men, women and children since it began. He has also delivered turkeys at Thanksgiving, collected bottles of water for Flint and hosted a Christmas party for kids in need.
"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 Michigan'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