For local underprivileged kids, one Stilwell teen fills the role of mentor, Christmas elf, artist and party planner.
Blue Valley High School senior Payton Meyer’s hard work has earned her the Spofford Daisy Award, which she was scheduled to accept Friday. The award is given to one employee and one volunteer at Spofford Home, which offers, among other things, residential and therapeutic services for neglected and abused children.
“I was surprised,” Meyer said. “I didn’t understand the impact I could have just as a 17-year-old girl.”
Meyer is the first youth to be honored with the award.
“As I was going through pictures from throughout the year, I just kept seeing Payton,” said Kira Montuori, vice president of community relations and development at Spofford. “It struck me how much she does — not just for Spofford, but specifically for the kids.”
To interact with the kids at Spofford, volunteers must be at least 15 years old. When Meyer first came to Spofford with her mom, Rhonda, who was already a volunteer, she worked in the library because she was too young for anything else.
“It was so cute,” Montuori said. “She got her paperwork in before her 15th birthday so she could start working with kids right away.”
Since then, Meyer has volunteered at the summer vacation Bible school, as a book buddy and in the residential dorms. She also helps organize gifts during the holiday season and hosts birthday parties for 7- to 9-year-old boys.
“I want them to know that there are people out there that care about them,” she said.
She brings them remote-control cars.
Meyer, who also enjoys art, also hosted an art show a couple of years ago. She and two of the residents painted the Spofford butterfly logo and sold them. All of the money from the show went back to Spofford.
“She doesn’t care about awards or special recognition,” Montuori said. “She just cares about the kids. She wants to give them happy memories, happy moments.”
Meyer also does volunteer work with her high school. As president of a community service club, Meyer led a trip to Spofford as one of the club’s monthly projects. She thinks it is important for people to understand their own privilege, something she didn’t completely grasp until starting at Spofford.
“When I was 12 or 13, my mom would go and then tell me stories,” she said. “I didn’t really have a full understanding.”
Meyer plans to attend Kansas State University next fall to study secondary education. Though she’s leaving for college, Meyer plans to keep up volunteering, mentioning specifically all of the community service her mother has done as an adult.