WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Wisconsin's top two youth volunteers of 2018, Evan Arnold, 18, of Neenah and Cole Stoffel, 13, of Appleton, were honored in the nation's capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 23rd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Evan and Cole – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn 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 Evan and Cole Wisconsin'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.
Evan, a senior at Neenah High School, started a foundation in 2009 that has delivered more than $55,000 worth of baseball equipment to children in need in 41 countries, and organized one-day baseball clinics for orphans and the children of incarcerated parents in Arizona. Evan has always loved baseball. "My parents have told me the first word I ever spoke was 'ball' and, when I was a toddler, I would sit on my dad's lap and watch baseball games on TV," he said. As he grew older, Evan learned that children around the world shared his love of the game, but many cannot afford proper equipment, so they have to use things like tree branches, metal poles and rolled-up cloth to play baseball.
Evan's response was to create "Step Up To The Plate," a foundation dedicated to providing new or gently-used baseball gloves, bats, balls, shoes and uniforms to children in need. To start, Evan created branding and marketing materials, and established a presence on social media. He then reached out to sporting goods stores, thrift stores, minor league baseball teams, parks and recreation departments and youth baseball organizations for donations of new and gently-used equipment. Lacking the funds to ship crates of supplies overseas, Evan persuaded organizations and individuals already traveling abroad to carry his donated equipment with them. In addition to this activity and his baseball clinics in Arizona, Evan was elected last year as president of Peace Is The Goal, Inc., a nonprofit that provides soccer equipment to children in need and has shipped supplies to kids in 140 countries.
Cole, an eighth-grader at James Madison Middle School, has raised more than $22,000 for pediatric cancer research and scholarships for cancer patients and survivors by running in an annual half-marathon and then creating his own fundraising obstacle race. While in elementary school, Cole lost his teacher to brain cancer. "Mr. Maufort was a great teacher who always encouraged us to get involved in our community and to give back," he said. To alleviate his grief and follow his teacher's advice, Cole connected with the Snowdrop Foundation of Wisconsin and began participating in its annual run to raise money and awareness for young cancer patients.
"After my third half-marathon, I realized we needed a kids-only event, and it seemed fitting to add obstacles, which represent the obstacles that children go through when battling cancer," said Cole. So, on his birthday, he held his first "Cole's Cancer Crusade," a fun kids obstacle-course run at a local high school, benefiting the Snowdrop Foundation. With help from his family, Cole publicized his event through speeches, fliers and social media, sought sponsorships from businesses, and built the obstacle course. Over the past two years, his event has drawn more than 500 participants, and his combined fundraising total has reached $22,500. "I know Mr. Maufort is looking down at each event I am at, and I just want to keep fulfilling what he always told us to do: get involved and give back!" said Cole.
"These honorees exemplify something we've known for a long time – that young volunteers have the power to bring meaningful change to their communities," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. "These students have shown leadership and determination well beyond their years, and it's a privilege to celebrate their service."
"Through their acts of service, these honorees drive home a powerful lesson for their peers: that one student really can make a difference," said Daniel P. Kelley, president of NASSP. "We are honored to shine a spotlight on the compassion, drive and ingenuity of each of these young volunteers."
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light's HandsOn Network. More than 29,000 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 23 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 principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student's potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. 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 Student Council. Learn more at 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.