Health and Family Services Cabinet
Two Kentucky youth among national volunteer awards winners
Two Kentucky youths were honored in Washington, D.C., earlier this month for their outstanding volunteer work. David Tao, 16, of Bardstown and Christina Abney, 14, of Louisville were among 102 young American volunteers to receive 2006 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Award winners each received $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip to the nations’ capital. At a special ceremony and reception May 7 at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, winners received their awards and met celebrities including actor Ted Danson and Olympic speed skater Joey Cheek.
Upon realizing many students in his school relied on free or reduced-price school meals, Tao, a junior at The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn., founded the Wagon of Hope food drive to help stock local food banks serving needy people in Nelson County. In less than four years, more than 18,000 food and toiletry items, as well as cash donations, have been collected through the Wagon of Hope project.
Tao recruited and trained other volunteers to keep the Wagon of Hope food drive running while he attends boarding school. And, although away from home, Tao continues to coordinate and handle all paperwork for the Wagon of Hope effort.
“It doesn’t take a large number of people or endless resources to start something great,” Tao said. “It only takes dedication, time and commitment.”
Abney, an eighth-grader at St. Francis of Assisi school, has helped raise awareness and thousands of dollars to benefit genocide survivors in Darfur, Sudan. As head of her school’s Committee on Conscience, Abney’s volunteer work also has helped provide aid to hurricane victims and other causes.
Abney and fellow committee members sponsor school events and community fundraising activities where they not only accept donations, but also work to make people more aware of the causes the committee serves. Abney also helped create a Web site with information about the killing and suffering in Darfur and how people can help. She makes public speaking appearances and volunteers her time to help senior citizens and residents of a local rehabilitation center.
“I love what I’m doing,” Abney said. “I feel now that I am more compassionate and more involved in the quest for peace.”
The award program is sponsored by Prudential Financial, Inc. in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals to reward young people for outstanding volunteer service to their communities. The Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services promotes the awards program on the state level.
Winners were chosen from nearly 20,000 nominations submitted last fall through schools, Girl Scouts councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and volunteer centers affiliated with the Points of Light Foundation.