The Heart of America Foundation® Heroes of the Heart® Christopher Reeve Award is presented
each year to an extraordinary youth who has demonstrated tremendous compassion and caring
in serving his or her community.
Nominate a Hero for the Annual Christopher Reeve Award
Nominees must be high school seniors or younger and the
awardee must be a high school senior or younger at the time the recipient is notified in March.
Nominations are accepted from September 1 through October 31 each year. One award recipient is selected in March and will
receive a $1,000 scholarship from Merriam-Webster, Inc. for post-secondary education.
Please note that the nominator cannot be a relative of the nominee.
Download Award Application (Word doc)
Nominations and questions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to The Heart of America Foundation at 401 F Street NW, Suite 325, Washington, DC 20001 to the attention of "Christopher Reeve Award." The nominator and nominee will be notified in March only if the nominee is selected as the recipient.
Congratulations to our 2011 Christopher Reeve Award Recipient
Alison Mansfield from Fort Wayne, IN!
Alison Mansfield, founder of Operation U.S. Troop Support will receive a $1,000 college scholarship sponsored by Merriam-Webster, Inc.
About Our 2011 Finalists:
Carah Austin - Whiteland, IN (2011 Finalist)
Carah has dedicated more than 5,600 service hours over the past four years towards her non-profit, the Find a Book a Home Foundation. Founded in 2004, the organization hosts book drives and provides drop-off sites for people to donate new and gently used books and magazines. The books are then sorted and distributed across the country to senior centers, daycare programs, schools, and other organizations. Carah dedicates roughly 20-25 hours each week running the Find a Book a Home Foundation, as well as approximately 4-10 hours each week assisting other organizations with their charitable work.
In 2004, when Carah was eleven, she began collecting books from book fairs and redistributing them. This small beginning led her to create the Find a Book a Home Foundation, which has now collected and distributed over 100,000 books by soliciting private and corporate donations. Corporate supporters have included CVS Pharmacy, Kroger, and Half Price Books.
In addition to donating books to people in need, or to organizations that can best utilize them, Find a Book a Home establishes libraries in small town hospitals. Carah's commitment to providing reading materials to people in need, and particularly to hospitals, stems from her personal experience of nearly dying from spinal meningitis as a child. While recovering in the hospital, she longed to read a story but there weren't any books available. In addition to creating a library for the pediatric ward of the hospital where she was treated, Carah has also established several libraries in other hospitals throughout Indiana and Kentucky.
In 2007, Carah expanded the foundation to include the History Makers of the Future program, which provides an all-expense paid trip to Madison, Indiana's Historic Landmark District, for up to 120 children. The trip, which takes place in the summer before students begin fourth grade, is designed to give them a head start on the Indiana history they will learn in school, as well as increase their self-esteem. Carah works with teachers at four elementary schools in the Clark-Pleasant School Corporation in Whiteland to select students for the trip, focusing on students with special needs, ADHD, or financial needs. All costs for children to attend are covered by the Foundation. Carah recruits high school volunteers to attend as chaperones, as well as people in Madison to help arrange the tour schedule.
In addition to running her foundation, Carah remains active on several boards of other organizations, including the Youth Philanthropy Initiative of Johnson County, 4-H Council, and The Power of Children. She is also a varsity tennis player, and is an ambassador for 4-H and Hugh O'Brian. She is interested in becoming a surgeon and recently completed an intensive medical internship where she shadowed fourteen doctors four afternoons a week for sixteen weeks. During that time she had the opportunity to observe a six hour open heart surgery. She plans on continuing her foundation's work while in college and hopes to later attend medical school.
James "Garrett" Grim - Roanoke, TX (2011 Finalist)
In 2010, Garrett Grim was 16 years old and pitching for the Keller High School baseball team when he lost control of the left side of his body and fell off the mound. After he was rushed to the emergency room, he and his family were told that he had broken two vertebrae and injured a disk. His recovery included surgery and two months of bed rest. While recovering, Garrett came up with a plan for empowering young athletes to help other young athletes. He called it Play It Forward.
With the motto "Athletes Helping Athletes," Play It Forward's mission is to "collect gently used sporting equipment and apparel, and donate them to the families of need in the community." Garrett hopes to develop Play It Forward into an ongoing community service organization with ambassadors at area schools/communities.
Garrett recruited four friends to help him carry out the mission, and they began asking neighbors to donate equipment. Within a short period of time word spread and they were soon conducting large-scale equipment drives. Garrett raises money for community collection barrels and arranges for storage of the donations. After picking up donations, he sorts and refurbishes the equipment and then arranges to distribute it to needy children throughout the community.
Their first distribution was to SafeHaven, a battered women's and children's shelter in Arlington, TX. This experience helped give Garrett a face to their mission. They made the delivery, played with the children, and when they were leaving a little girl named asked them when they were going to take all of the stuff away. Her face lit up when he told her that everything they brought was staying at SafeHaven.
Since that first distribution, Play It Forward has served athletes through Christ's Haven Orphanage, Fort Worth's Youth Association, Mission Arlington, Keller Youth Association, Cedar Hill Broncos, the Oak Cliff Rams' baseball and football teams, Keller Independent School District, Arms of Hope, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fort Worth. The organization has outfitted entire baseball, football, and volleyball teams. In January 2011, Play It Forward conducted an equipment drive for the Miracle League, which serves special needs children and lost most of its baseball equipment in a fire. Eight schools and a church participated in the drive, collecting 1,612 items.
Garrett has contributed more than 750 hours in the past two years to establishing and leading the organization, directly touching the lives of 500 new athletes, while his organization has allowed an estimated 3,000 Texas children to play sports. Garrett speaks regularly to superintendents, principals, fellow students, and athletes to advocate for his organization. As a result, Play It Forward chapters have been started in eight high schools in Texas, while schools in Nashville, TN and Atlanta, GA have expressed interest.
Play It Forward has also expanded to collaborate with established organizations, including the Vernon Wells 10 Foundation, Arms of Hope and the Pro Players Foundation. The Pro Players Foundation, an organization that focuses on serving students in need in North Texas, recently adopted Play It Forward as the newest member of the Pro Players Foundation family and as its official youth component.
Next year Garrett will be attending Texas Christian University, and is already speaking with the University about launching a Play It Forward chapter at the school.
For additional information on Play It Forward, please visit playitforwardusa.org.
Lacy Keith - Middletown, OH (2011 Finalist)
Lacy Keith has volunteered since she was a very young child. In the beginning, she participated with her family and her church. When Lacy was ten, one such project, filling shoe boxes with toys and small gifts for children in developing countries, led Lacy to think about the families locally that were also in need. She understood the need for support overseas, but also wanted to make a difference locally. After speaking with a few adults about places in the area with the highest need, Lacy decided to help the Middletown Hope House, a homeless shelter serving Middletown, Ohio. Hope House serves men, women, and children, and can house up to 100 people at a time.
Calling Hope House to ascertain the shelter's needs, Lacy learned that the shelter most needed everyday items, like toilet paper and hygiene products. She began soliciting donations through letter writing campaigns to churches, businesses, schools and individuals, as well as placing coffee cans around town to collect monetary donations, and boxes to collect donated goods.
The response was so overwhelming that Lacy has continued the collection for the past eight years. Every week she empties the boxes and coffee cans and uses any monetary donations to purchase hygiene supplies at the local dollar store. She sorts and stores all of the items in a barn behind her house until Christmas time. Through her dedication to the high need in her local community, Lacy has collected over 1,838 rolls of toilet paper, 809 bottles of shampoo and conditioner, 1,092 sticks of deodorants, and thousands upon thousands of other unrecorded hygiene and personal items.
Hope House's Office Manager, Donna Nunke, describes Lacy as "having a compassionate heart for her community," and says that every year she donates more than 1,000 pounds of non-food items. Nunke says that the donations help the shelter year round, and that the shelter is always in need of toiletries. In 2010, Lacy's donation added up to 141 full boxes, which were delivered to Hope House in a trailer attached to her family's truck. The residents, who recognize her and look forward to the donation, came out to help her unload.
Over the years, she has expanded her outreach and added new fundraising methods to her ongoing activities. She also began to collect food items and clothing, in addition to toiletries and hygiene products.
In 2009, as a freshman, Lacy approached the high school's band director and asked if the band could do a food drive for Hope House at one of their band concerts. Since then, the last concert of the year is called "A Night of Music and Hope." There is no admission fee, but canned food donations are requested. Over the last three years the concert has generated over 600 pounds of food for Hope House.
As a junior in high school, Lacy began selling Madison Mohawk silicone bracelets. All proceeds went toward Hope House. Thus far the bracelet sales have raised an additional $1,000 for the shelter.
For the past eight years Lacy has dedicated herself fully to supporting Hope House and to making it a more welcome place for the residents. She is hoping to continue her volunteer service at the shelter while attending college in the fall.
Katherine Stone - Fort Walton Beach, FL (2011 Finalist)
Katherine Stone has volunteered since kindergarten in a variety of organizations and capacities, including conducting a penny drive for a family in Rwanda, holding a Locks of Love event for the past six years, spearheading an eyeglass drive that involved 16 optometrists, collecting hundreds of items for a local family shelter, and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.
Her passion, however, is for Save Our Cats and Kittens Shelter (SOCKS). She began volunteering with the shelter at age 14, and has since been involved in a variety of capacities, including fundraising, acting as a foster parent for kittens (88 so far!), grant writing, and volunteer management. She also serves on the shelter's board. Overall, she has dedicated more than 4,000 hours to the organization.
Three years ago, at age 14, Katherine decided to organize and run a golf tournament to raise money for the shelter. The director at the golf course wrote a letter to the local paper commending her on the success of the tournament, particularly as the founder and organizer of the Kat Klassic. He said, "She took the event from inception to the bank…This young lady blew us away with her composure, dedication and hard work. It was amazing to see a young lady command an event that was not only very well organized, but also successful."
Her work on the Kat Klassic led Katherine to undertake an even larger project: fully renovating the cat room in the shelter. As a volunteer, she noticed that most people avoided the room because of its terrible odor and recognized that it was discouraging people from adopting the animals. The shelter, with only a few paid staff, did not have the manpower or funds to renovate the space. Through determination and organization, Katherine oversaw and fully managed the renovation.
She started by meeting with SOCK's shelter manager and director, and afterward recruited skilled contractors by speaking with the Building Industry Association of Okaloosa-Walton Counties. She raised funds for the renovation by writing grant requests, soliciting in kind donations, and holding fundraisers. In all, the renovation cost $88,000. Once the funds were raised, she arranged for the delivery of the building materials. Because the renovation displaced 125 cats and temporarily closed the shelter to adoptions, the renovation was managed on a very tight timeline.
Katherine recruited and supervised a Girl Scout troop, which assisted with relocating the animals and removing the shelves. A Boy Scout troop assisted with the removal of the flooring, some walls, and ceiling tiles. One of the Building Association members donated vinyl sliding doors for viewing the room from the shelter's main hallway, as well as a crew to install them. Volunteers spent hours cleaning, caulking, painting, and putting up new shelving. Katherine worked 18 hour days throughout the project.
In all, Katherine supervised over 40 volunteers from eight different local schools. She worked more than 180 hours on the project, and the volunteers served over 800 hours. She is credited with creating a more welcoming environment that will hopefully foster more adoptions, as well as help the shelter stay open during these difficult economic times.
Katherine has been accepted into MIT for the fall, and is already looking into volunteering at animal shelters near the school.
Past Christopher Reeve Award Recipients:
Mary Claire McGlynn, Co-Founder and Executive Director of NETwork Against Malaria – Belleville, IL (2010)
Melissa Monette – Hawaii (2009)
Heather Wilder – Las Vegas, NV (2008)