For Immediate Release: February 26, 2020
JACKSON, Miss. – Two Mississippi students are among a select group of students nationwide who have been recognized as top youth volunteers for 2020 in the 25th annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. More than 29,000 young people across the country participated in this year’s program.
Logan Thornton, 17, of Hattiesburg and Amelia Cook, 13, of Pascagoula have been selected as Mississippi’s top youth volunteers for this year. As state honorees, each will receive a $1,000 scholarship, an engraved silver medallion and a trip to Washington, D.C., May 2-5 for the program’s national recognition events. Four other students from Mississippi have been named Distinguished Finalists and will receive bronze medallions at local ceremonies.
Logan, a senior at Purvis High School, collects used children’s rehabilitation equipment from families that no longer need it, cleans and makes necessary repairs, and then delivers it to children with disabilities who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Logan embarked on his equipment exchange program after his mother, a pediatric physical therapist, introduced him to a little boy being treated for a spinal cord injury.
“His family was not able to buy him the equipment he needed to go to school and be independent,” Logan said. “My heart hurt for him. He told me he just wanted to be a ‘regular boy.’” Logan found him a power wheelchair. “Just seeing the delight on his face was enough to make me continue,” he said.
Since then, Logan has located equipment for more than 40 children and has donated more than 30 other pieces of equipment to a summer camp for children with disabilities, where he has volunteered for several years. He relies on his mother to identify families in need of rehabilitation equipment, as well as those with children who have outgrown their equipment or simply no longer need it. He coordinates a process to match donors and recipients, then picks up the donated equipment and stores it in a friend’s basement.
“I have learned so much about children with disabilities and how their disability should not keep them from participating in everything everywhere,” Logan said.
Amelia Cook, a 7th grader at Resurrection Catholic Middle/High School, raises money for a wide array of causes by baking cakes and cookies and selling them through a Facebook page. Her earliest efforts involved a series of lemonade stands that raised funds for an international humanitarian agency that provides food, schooling and basic necessities for children in other countries. As a result of her efforts, Amelia learned of an orphaned boy who needed extensive cleft palate surgery. “When I saw the picture of little Liang, I was overcome with sadness and knew I needed to do something,” she said.
Having a passion for baking, Amelia started making cakes and cookies, advertised them on Facebook and received an “overwhelming” response from her community. It wasn’t long before she exceeded the amount needed for Liang’s surgery. Now, each week, she makes supply and grocery lists, collects cake and cookie orders, does her baking, schedules deliveries and pickups, and logs all expenses and revenues. With her proceeds, she has been able to pay for part of a child’s heart surgery, another child’s school tuition, a year’s supply of school supplies for three students and shoes for 10 children in need. In addition, Amelia’s baking business has purchased a sewing machine for a single mother, barnyard animals for a family’s livelihood, and gardening equipment and supplies for another family. She also helped pay to fix termite damage in her school’s library.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, created in 1995 by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, are designed to emphasize the importance of service to others and to encourage all young Americans to contribute to their communities.
Distinguished Finalists include:
More information: https://spirit.prudential.com/honorees/state
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications
Jean Cook, APR
Director of Public Relations