Wakefield and Coventry students honored in Washington, D.C. for outstanding volunteer service
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rhode Island’s top two youth volunteers of 2017, Max Hempe, 17,
of Wakefield and Haylee Balme, 13, of Coventry, were honored in the nation’s capital
last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 22^nd annual
presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Max and Haylee – along
with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000
awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps at an
award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum
of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial
in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP),
named Max and Haylee Rhode Island’s top high school and middle level youth
volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an
engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington,
D.C., for four days of recognition events.
Max, a senior at Bishop Hendricken High School, led a campaign to purchase a bullet-
and stab- protective vest for a police dog in the Cranston, R.I., Police
Department’s K9 unit. During his years as a Boy Scout, Max developed a strong
interest in the well-being of his community, and a deep respect for law enforcement.
“When I learned the police K9s of Cranston did not have any protection, I knew
something had to be done,” he said.
Max created a plan to raise enough money to buy a protective dog vest through a
nonprofit group. He established a Facebook page to appeal for donations and
contacted family members, friends and corporations throughout New England for help.
He also recruited fellow Boy Scouts to join his effort. It took four months for Max
to finally collect the $1,050 needed for the vest, which is now protecting K9 Zeus,
a purebred Czechoslovakian Shepherd. “To know that I helped make the community and
its officers safer filled me with immense pleasure,” said Max. “I feel I am Zeus’
Haylee, a member of the Rhode Island 4-H and a seventh-grader at Alan Shawn
Feinstein Middle School of Coventry, led her 4-H club in collecting money and
donated items to make 100 “blessing bags” for homeless people in West Warwick and
Providence. As the weather turned colder last October, Haylee grew more concerned
about the people she saw on street corners begging for money. She decided they could
use some extra help, so she talked to her 4-H club about providing them with bags of
The 4-Hers hit up their families for donations, local businesses were asked for
contributions, and Haylee’s father helped her set up a crowd-fundraising website.
After collecting a sizable amount of money and products, Haylee’s 4-H team met at
her house to pack toiletries, snacks, hats, blankets, hand-warmers and other items
into 100 freezer-size bags. They personally handed out their blessing bags at a
Sunday dinner hosted by a homeless-services organization in West Warwick, and then
distributed the rest through another charitable group in Providence. “I learned
there are so many homeless people right here that need our help,” said Haylee. “This
made all of us appreciate our lives!”
“These honorees have done exemplary work to contribute to the health and vitality of
their communities, and we look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in
the future,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc.
“Congratulations to each of these extraordinary young volunteers.”
“It’s a privilege to celebrate these students not only for outstanding volunteer
service, but for the example they’ve set for their peers,” said Jayne Ellspermann,
president of NASSP. “These honorees prove that one person truly can make a
Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2017 Prudential Spirit of
Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H
organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn
Network. More than 31,000 middle level and high school students nationwide
participated in this year’s program.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify
and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing,
inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 22 years, the program has honored more
than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.
For more information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year’s
honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading
organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant
principals, and school leaders from across the United States. The association
connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and
student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the
success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the
design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting
its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers
the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor
Society, and National Association of Student Councils. For more information about
NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org (http://www.nassp.org) .
About Prudential Financial
Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), (http://www.investor.prudential.com) a
financial services leader, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and
Latin America. Prudential’s diverse and talented employees are committed to helping
individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a
variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities,
retirement-related services, mutual funds and investment management. In the U.S.,
Prudential’s iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and
innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit
www.news.prudential.com (http://www.news.prudential.com) .