May 07, 2013

Manchin Congratulates West Virginia's Top Youth Volunteers

Jay Haapala, 15, of Elkview and Julian Harrington, 12, of West Union earn the Prudential Spirit of Community Award

Washington, D.C. —  U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today congratulated Jay Haapala, 15, of Elkview and Julian Harrington, 12, of West Union, who have been selected as West Virginia’s state honorees and the top two youth volunteers in the 18th annual Prudential Spirit of Community Award. The nationwide program honors middle school and high school students for their exceptional service to others at the local, state and national levels. 

 “I have always said that West Virginians are dedicated to neighbors helping neighbors,” Senator Manchin said. “Jay and Julian have set extraordinary examples by serving others. Their actions should inspire us all to make a difference in our own communities. I am proud to congratulate them for all they have accomplished and I look forward to the many great things both Jay and Julian will go on to achieve in the future.”

Each state honoree will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion, and a trip to Washington, D.C. May 4-7 for the program’s national recognition events. The students will meet the top two honorees from each state and the District of Columbia for several days of national recognition events. Senator Manchin’s staff will meet with the students, as well. Ten of the candidates will be named America’s top youth volunteers for 2013 at that time.

From the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Press Release:

Jay, a freshman at Capital High School, chaired West Virginia’s annual fundraising walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) last year, attracting more than 700 walkers and raising a record $140,000. After Jay was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nine years ago, he and his family began participating in the annual walk in Charleston. “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. “The most difficult part of my project was being in charge of so many people,” said Jay. 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.

Julian, a sixth-grader at Doddridge County Middle School, organized a yard sale and benefit dinner that together raised $1,600 for two families who lost their homes to a fire. This was just the latest of Julian’s volunteer projects. Previously, he had donated his birthday money to relief efforts in Haiti, raised money for tsunami victims in Japan, conducted a car wash and bake sale to benefit food pantries, and helped make blankets for senior citizens. “I don’t like to see others hurting no matter what the circumstances,” he explained. Julian has stayed committed to his word. When a winter fire destroyed two homes in Salem, W.Va., he felt compelled to respond. “I felt sorry for both families that lost everything,” he said. He collected things to sell at his yard sale, distributed promotional flyers to local businesses, submitted an article to the local newspaper, and recruited family members and friends to help conduct the sale and cook the dinner. Julian knew he’d really accomplished something when he saw the tears in the eyes of the two families as they received their checks. “No matter where we live, rich or poor, or what country we live in, we are all God’s children and should help one another,” said Julian.

Senator Manchin’s staff member, Kimberly Waller, met with Prudential Spirit of Community Award honorees Julian Harrington (center) and Jay Haapala (right). They had a great conversation about the importance of helping others in their communities.