WASHINGTON, May 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Missouri's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Meredith Sharp, 18, of Springfield and Madeline Domian, 12, of Fenton, 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. Madeline – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – received a $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. Meredith, who was unable to attend last night's events, was honored in absentia for her outstanding volunteer service.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Meredith and Madeline Missouri'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.
Meredith, a senior at Greenwood Laboratory School, has raised more than $20,000 and provided new athletic shoes for all 311 students at a local elementary school in a low-income area of Springfield. While volunteering as a math tutor at a Boys & Girls Club, Meredith noticed that most of the kids playing in the gymnasium there wore shoes that were too small, too big, or worn out. "My own feet sported the latest and greatest in athletic footwear," she said. "On the feet of everyone around me, I saw ill-fitting, loose, snug and tattered footwear. I knew I had to act."
Meredith created a nonprofit organization called "Just for Kicks," then began soliciting donations in person and by mail from relatives, neighbors and business leaders. While she had hoped to collect enough money to buy shoes for one class of kids, she had amassed enough to outfit an entire school in just a matter of months. She picked a school where more than 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and collected the shoe sizes of every student. After negotiating a competitive price with a major shoe manufacturer, Meredith allowed the kids to choose from a variety of styles and colors, and placed her order. With help from several other volunteers, she presented the excited students with their new shoes last May. She will size, order and deliver shoes for every student at another elementary school in the spring.
Madeline, a sixth-grader at Rockwood South Middle School, mobilized her whole school to help her create care kits for children undergoing chemotherapy in honor of a beloved aunt who died from cancer in September 2015. After her Aunt Katie-Do was diagnosed, Madeline and her sister sold cookies at their neighborhood garage sale and donated the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. When her aunt died, "I thought to myself: What can I do to keep her memory alive?" said Madeline. "I remembered how hard chemo treatments were for her, and I thought no kid should have to go through that."
Madeline researched the needs of children in chemotherapy and then asked her principal if she could get her school's students involved in making "chemo care kits." With the help of a counselor and her school's leadership team, she kicked off a school-wide drive with a PowerPoint presentation to the entire student body. Madeline requested items to help kids deal with the side effects of chemotherapy (such as lip balm, lotion and hand sanitizer), keep them comfortable (socks, hats and blankets), and keep them busy (games, toys and puzzles). "Everyone thought it was a great idea, and donations started piling in," said Madeline. After enough items were collected, students helped assemble 50 kits and deliver them to St. Louis Children's Hospital. Madeline now delivers 30 kits a month; to date, she and her helpers have put together 450 kits for kids battling cancer.
"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
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Editors: For pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, visit https://spirit.prudential.com/resources/media.
For B-roll of Missouri'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