A picture of Senator Mark Begich
Mark B.
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    by Former Senator Mark Begich

    Posted on 2013-02-25

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    BEGICH. Mr. President, I would like to congratulate and honor two young Alaska students who have achieved national recognition for exemplary volunteer service in their communities. Shaylee Rizzo of Kenai and Samuel Allred of Wasilla have just been named State Honorees in the 2013 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Program, an annual honor conferred on only one high school student and one middle-level student in each State and the District of Columbia.



    Ms. Rizzo earned recognition for starting a public service campaign called ``Missy the Moose Program'' to raise youth awareness of the dangers of cars hitting moose on Alaska's highways--a common occurrence in her area during the hazardous winter months. Her idea was inspired by a photograph of a local motel owner posing with an orphaned moose he had saved after its mother was killed by a car. To launch her program, Shaylee wrote and illustrated a children's book that told the story of a collision from a moose calf's perspective. Wearing a moose costume, she then visited elementary school classrooms as Missy the Moose, sharing her book with the kids and offering ideas on how to encourage their parents to watch out for Missy and her friends. With her father's help, she wrote a theme song, recorded radio announcements urging children to get their parents to slow down, and solicited local businesses to buy more air time for her announcements. Currently, she is trying to gain State of Alaska's approval to post Missy the Moose signs in high moose-traffic areas to remind motorists to drive with care.

    Mr. Allred earned recognition for making travel-size pillows and distributing them to children's hospitals across the country to provide comfort to sick kids. As a toddler, he was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that resulted in hospitalizations and the need to take medications that altered his appearance. In 2008, a video of Samuel singing went viral on YouTube and garnered millions of views--along with comments that were mostly good--but judged his appearance. He decided to start a nonprofit organization with the [[Page S813]] goal of changing lives through compassion. In 2009, Samuel, along with friends and family members, made 300 pillows out of bright, cheerful fabric and donated them to a local children's hospital. But Samuel knew he could do even more if he got the community involved, so he began visiting local schools to talk about kindness and compassion. It wasn't long before others were helping to craft pillows for Samuel's ``Project Comfort.'' Elementary school students stuffed pillows, senior citizens stitched them closed, and middle-school students made more than 1,700 pillows. Today, many groups in Alaska are creating pillows. Samuel sends the pillows to children's hospitals throughout the United States.

    Given the challenges we face today, it is important that we encourage and support the kind of selfless contributions that these young Alaskans have made. Youth volunteers like Ms. Rizzo and Mr. Allred are inspiring examples to all of us, and are among our brightest hopes for a better tomorrow.

    I thank Ms. Rizzo and Mr. Allred for their initiative in seeking to make their communities better places to live, and for the positive impact they have had on the lives of others. I also would like to salute Allison Ostrander and Reese Qualls, young people in my State who were named distinguished finalists by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards for their outstanding volunteer service.

    All of these young people demonstrate a level of commitment and accomplishment that is rarely seen today, and they deserve our sincere admiration and respect. Their actions show that young Americans can, and do, play important roles in their communities, and that America's community spirit continues to hold tremendous promise for the future.

    Thank you for allowing me to take a moment to recognize these great young volunteers in Alaska. ____________________

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