CUMMING, Ga. — Thirteen-year-old Kelsey Hirsch, a Piney Grove Middle School eighth-grader, was honored as one of the state’s top two youth volunteers for the year by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program.
Hirsch received an engraved silver medallion presented at the Forsyth County Board of Education meeting on April 18.
“We are so proud of her,” her mother Tonya Hirsch said.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service and is open to all middle and high schools in the U.S.
Finalists for the award were selected based on criteria such as personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.
Hirsch won the award by designing and selling about $15,000 worth of blue silicone wristbands for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).
“This was part of her Bat Mitzvah,” her mother said. “She needed to do a community service project.”
Hirsch said her daughter was impacted by the allegations of sexual abuse at Pennsylvania State University, her parents’ alma mater, and wanted to do something to help survivors of sexual assaults, especially those impacted by the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and to support RAINN’s mission.
Sandusky is a former Penn State football coach and convicted serial child molester.
“We talked with her about what happened at Penn State,” her mother said. “It was hard, but it was being discussed everywhere and we wanted her to understand, and she decided she wanted to do something to help.”
She named the bracelets Bands4RAINN and asked RAINN to publicize her fundraising program.
Calls and Internet searches to the organization increased dramatically since the Sandusky scandal and Hirsch’s Bands4RAINN has helped increase RAINN’s call capacity by about 47 percent.
She worked with friends, family and various social media outlets, along with other advocacy groups in and around the Penn State community to sell the bracelets.
“She has a webpage for the bands through the RAINN and also has a Facebook page, and those have really helped to raise money,” her mother said.
For her efforts, Hirsch received $1,000 and a paid trip to Washington, D.C., with more than 100 other top state honorees from across the country to participate in a national recognition event as America’s top youth volunteers for the year.
This article was published in the Forsyth Herlad April 24, 2013 edition