In West Virginia, a 16-year-old with type 1 recruited hundreds of walkers and raised a record amount of money for his local JDRF chapter because he wanted to give back to a worthy cause.
In New York, another teenager helped raise a record amount of money for his local JDRF walk.
We tend to think of teens as "hanging out" and wasting a lot of time, but these two kids exemplify how younger generations of PWDs are rockin' the volunteerism! Maybe before long they'll fit into our Amazing Advocates series, as they appear to be up-and-comers in diabetes advocacy...
This is National Volunteer Week, running through Saturday, and both of these type 1 teens are being honored by the nation's largest youth recognition program, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Getting recognized through this program is no small feat, People. The nominees are pared down from thousands around the country.
Since its establishment in 1995, the Prudential Spirit program has recognized more than 345,000 Americans. Who's eligible? Basically, anyone... all public and private middle and high school students in the country, and those involved with Girl Scouts, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs, and HandsOn Network affiliates. Each year, 102 state honorees are chosen to receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. where just 10 of them are named National Honorees.
Ranging in age from 12 to 18, the 10 National Honorees receive personal awards of $5,000, engraved gold medallions, crystal trophies for the schools that nominated them, and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for the charities of their choice. They'll visit some D.C. spots in early May, including meetings with their Congressional representatives, and a webcast of this year's events will be available starting at 12:45 p.m. EDT on May 6.
It turns out that diabetes volunteerism has been a leading cause recognized by the program through the years, according to Prudential spokeswoman Valerie Cardaci.
"There has absolutely been at least one project every year focusing on diabetes, and it is one of the most popular causes that honorees focus their efforts on!" she told us.
Actually, we know of one of our very own Diabetes Online Community (DOC) peeps who was recognized back in 2007 — Mollie Singer in Las Vegas, NV, who many may know as having a twin sister Jackie and being a part of a country music band, MJ2. If their efforts with their Diabetic Angels community are any indication of the kind of volunteerism we can expect see from this year's honorees down the road, then we're in for some great, fresh approaches to advocacy work!
Please meet the two PWD honorees this year:
Jay Haapala, 16, of Elkview, WV: A high school freshmen diagnosed nine years ago, Jay chaired West Virginia's annual fundraising walk for the JDRF last year, attracting more than 700 walkers and raising a record $140,000.
Jay says he and his family began participating in the annual walk locally in Charleston not long after his diagnosis, and that's what led him to this volunteering.
"As I grew older, I decided I wanted to find a project relating to diabetes, and to prove to myself and others that I could handle anything," he said. "I am always up for a challenge, especially if I can help people in the process."
Jay joined the board of West Virginia's JDRF chapter and took on the challenge of chairing the chapter's walk. Starting months before the May event, he created a new logo and slogan, built a website, recruited local high school students and his Boy Scout troop to help, planned media coverage and worked on logistics with other chapter board members.
To make the walk extra fun for young walkers, Jay arranged for balloons to be released at the starting line, a helicopter to land at the event and a military airplane to be on display. He also handed out cards resembling airline safety cards to illustrate the warning signs and treatments for abnormal blood sugar levels. Jay has already agreed to chair this year's event, too.
"I thought it would be cool to get the experience," he said. Right -- very cool!
Adam Moss, 17, of Rockville Centre, NY: A high school senior who was diagnosed when he was 5 years old, Adam has served as youth ambassador for the Long Island chapter of the JDRF. He raised more than $85,000 by leading a team in the organization's annual charity walk. Adam also is a buddy to a boy with Down's syndrome through his school's Best Buddies Club, for which he currently serves as president.
Here's a snippet of Adam cutting the ribbon at his local JDRF walk last year:
Wow - these kinds of volunteer efforts are great to see, especially from young folks, and especially combined with passion to help the diabetes community!
With this being National Volunteer Week, it's a perfect moment to think how we can each take a little time out of our busy schedules for volunteer work. Personally, I'm taking some direction from Jay and Adam here, and helping out my local JDRF chapter with some upcoming event publicity. Who knows what impact it may have? Heck, a little extra can go a long way!
OK, D-Peeps... anybody want to share what you (or your kids) are doing to mark National Volunteer Week?