Two community-minded Lee’s Summit students have received national recognition for their volunteerism.
Bernard C. Campbell eighth-grader Katelyn Ravasini, 14, received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award as the top youth volunteer among middle school students in Missouri for 2018.
Along with Missouri’s high school winner Sophie from Bernstein from Clayton High in suburban St. Louis, Ravasini will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in late April with her parents for a four-day conference recognizing state winners from across the country.
During that trip, 10 students will be chosen as the top youth volunteers in the U.S. for 2018 during a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
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Lee’s Summit West junior Maryn White was recognized as one of six Distinguished Finalists from Missouri in the nation’s largest volunteer awards recognition program.
Ravasini was honored for organizing a bowl-a-thon last year to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Achievement Center at University of Kansas Medical Center. She said her motivation for the project was two-fold — an inspirational teacher and a family member’s ailment.
“I was inspired for the project by Mrs. (Christy) Fansher, my English teacher,” Ravasini said. “Last year, she challenged us in Genius Hour to make a good impact in the world and encouraged us to start a project. I had done a lot of volunteer work but had never come up with something on my own before that. Mrs Fansher was the inspiration.
“I decided to research MS for the project because my aunt has that disease. I didn’t know much about it and decided to look into it. I learned there’s no cure, so I decided I wanted to do a fundraiser for the KU MS treatment center, where my aunt gets treatment.”
After brainstorming with her cousin, Cynthia Thomas, who owns Mission Bowl in Olathe, Ravasini settled on a bowl-a-thon and raffle in March 2017 during National Multiple Sclerosis Month.
As an experienced volunteer, Katelyn tapped into her community connections and met with local business owners to request raffle donations.
“We had 30 different prizes, plus we sold tickets and T-shirts with the slogan, ‘Together we can strike out MS,’” Ravasini said.
More than 100 bowlers participated in the bowl-a-thon and raised $2,200 for the Multiple Sclerosis Achievement Center, which Katelyn presented to Dr. Sharon Lynch at the medical center.
Similarly, White, who previously was honored in middle school with a Prudential Spirit of Community Awareness award, saw a way to improve Lee’s Summit and took action.
“These kids see a need in the community and act,” said Harold Banks, media relations manager for Prudential’s awards program. “Most of them didn’t even know about the program. They didn’t want to see their name in lights. They just wanted to help. These are the children of the future. They are the ones who will take this to the next level.”
Just as White did in leading an initiative to create an art cart at St. Luke’s East Hospital.
White collected more than 600 art supplies to provide patients with a creative outlet during their hospital stays. She started making rounds with her cart last summer.
Her own illness inspired her philanthropy. White knows firsthand the value of the creative expression for hospital patients. During a months-long hospital stay in fourth grade for ulcerative colitis, she found the hospital’s art cart to be an integral element in her healing process.
After she started volunteering at St. Luke’s her freshman year, White noticed the hospital didn’t have an art cart for patients, “so I met with Ron Baker, the CEO, and he thought the cart was a good idea,” she said.
“Hospital is not a fun time for anyone,” White said. “Art therapy helps patients. It helps them relax and get their minds off why they are there. Now, I’m able to provide that service to others and see how they benefit from art in the same way I did. Ever since I had that tragedy in my life, I have wanted, to the best of my abilities, to help others not suffer the same way I did. I also hope I can inspire kids to help people in their community and think about someone other than themselves.”
Ravasini shares a similar hope.
“I hope this inspires others that anybody my age can go out and help,” she said. “This shows what we can do, even though we’re not adults yet.”
Of course, the award isn’t a final destination for White or Ravasini, who is now planning a second benefit for the medical center.
“We’re talking about another fundraiser to collect items for the center’s kitchen and craft areas, so patients can learn to work with their disabilities in arts and cooking,” Ravasini said.