A Kanawha County high school student and a Doddridge County middle school student have been named top youth volunteers for 2013 and given the national Prudential Spirit of Community Award.
Jay Haapala, 15, of Elkview and a freshman at Capital High School in Charleston, chaired West Virginia's annual fundraising walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation last year, attracting more than 700 walkers and raising a record $140,000. Julian Harrington, 12, of West Union and a sixth grader at Doddridge County Middle School, organized a yard sale and benefit dinner to raise $1,600 for families who lost their homes to a fire.
Haapala, who was diagnosed with Type I diabetes nine years ago, said as he grew older, he wanted to do something to help those with the disease.
"I am always up for a challenge, especially if I can help people in the process," he said.
Harrington previously donated his birthday money to relief efforts in Haiti, raised money for tsunami victims in Japan and participated in other volunteer efforts.
"I don't like to see others hurting no matter what the circumstances," Harrington said.
State winners of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and a trip to Washington, D.C., for the national awards in May. The awards are conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Two winners are chosen from each state and Washington, D.C.
Briana Smith, 19, of Williamson and a senior at Mingo Central High School, and Tiffani Webb, 18, of Culloden and a senior at Cabell Midland High School, also were named distinguished state finalists and will receive an engraved bronze medallion. Smith helped raise $25,000 through the Tug Valley Friendship Foundation to provide Christmas gifts for low income children. Webb, a Girl Scout, collected thousands of books and movies, six gaming systems and 129 video games for the pediatric unit at River Park Hospital.