Colleen Kelly Alexander, the keynote speaker at the Spirit of Hope and Kindness Awards, talks about the kindness shown to her after a horrific accident. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
May 09, 2018MEREDITH — Children from preschool through high school were honored for their acts of kindness and community service during the first ever Spirit of Hope and Kindness Awards.
People from across the Lakes Region gathered at Church Landing on Sunday to honor all of the kids nominated for the award and their many acts of community service, volunteerism, and overall human kindness.
Board member Laura Brusseau said "in a world where bad news sells" and people are more focused on numbers of followers and likes on social media, it is important to remember that there is good being done and numbers don't define people.
"Our society needs to focus more on being kind and living a life (of kindness) than remembering what the latest craze is," Brusseau said.
The awards were a way to honor children for their community service and being kind to others.
Board member Andrea Condodemetraky said they received many nominations, all of which were carefully reviewed by a panel of judges. The nominations were in the categories of Preschool, Elementary School, Middle School, and High School.
"Really, truly amazing kids; you have already won at life," Condodemetraky said.
Fred Caruso and Amy Bates of Mix 94.1 FM presented the awards, recognizing each of the finalists' achievements and then presenting a trophy to the winners.
In the Preschool category, finalists Hannah LaRoche and Emmalyn Varney, both from Laconia, received the award.
The winner in the Elementary School category was Gavin Makely of Laconia, with Natalee Magdziasz of Gilford and Nathan Hobby of Laconia the other finalists.
In the Middle School category, twins Andrew and Gabriella DeCarli of Gilford received the award and were honored along with finalists Tanner McKim of Belmont and Rowan Jones of Laconia.
Camryn Drew of Belmont won in the High School category. The other finalists were Alexyah Dethvongsa of Laconia, Katie Theberge of Laconia, and Jasmine Morrissette of Meredith.
Condodemetraky said all of the finalists will receive a check with the stipulation that they use it for a random act of kindness, donate it to a charity or nonprofit, use it to raise finds for a cause, or any combination of the above.
Each of the nominees also received a personal letter from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
US Rep. Annie Kuster sent a video message to the awards saying that volunteerism is an important tradition to the state.
"I know your family, friends, classmates, and the entire Granite State are proud of your accomplishments," Kuster said.
The event's keynote speaker was Colleen Kelly Alexander. Alexander told the story of how seven years ago she was struck by a freight truck while cycling and was "ripped apart right below my sternum."
She lost 78 pints of blood and had to be resuscitated multiple times. She spent a month and a half in a coma, and said she had to learn how to walk and talk all over again.
She credited the first responders, surgeons, blood donors, and many more with allowing her to be alive today. As she went through a long recovery, she decided to help work through her challenges by giving back to others.
Alexander started doing races, starting in a wheelchair or walker. While she knew she wouldn't place, every medal she received for participating was given to one of the people who helped save her life.
"As long as you're breathing, you have the opportunity to be a change-maker," Alexander said.