The Edmond Sun

February 15, 2013

Prudential selects Oklahoma’s 2 top youth volunteers

Edmond, Guthrie students named top winners


The Edmond Sun

OKLA. CITY — Perrin Duncan, 17, of Edmond and Mason Harvey, 13, of Guthrie recently were named Oklahoma’s top two youth volunteers of 2013 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerisrn. Although Perrin is not a Girl Scout she was nominated by Shannon Evers, the executive director of Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, and Mason was nominated by Guthrie Junior High School in Guthrie.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 18th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Perrin, a senior at North High School, was a dedicated fundraiser for an annual charity drive at her school before becoming co-chair of its 2012 campaign, which yielded more than $280,000 for the Sooner Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In 1994, students at Perrin’s high school began a tradition of raising money for a different charity each year. Perrin had heard about the annual campaign, called BALTO (Bring A Light To Others), from her older brother and friends.

“They told me what an amazing philanthropic fundraiser it was,” she said. “I wanted to get involved as soon as I could, as I have always had a desire to help others.”

As soon as Perrin entered high school, she volunteered to raise funds for the campaign. She wrote letters, planned events and participated in a variety of other fundraising activities. That year, Perrin personally raised $3,600. The next year, inspired by a fellow student who was battling terminal cancer, Perrin raised $5,000 for Oklahoma’s Children’s Hospital Foundation. In recognition of her passion and commitment, she was named co-chair of BALTO the following year. Working with her fellow co-chair, Perrin chose the state’s Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to be the beneficiary of the 2012 fundraising project, decided on a theme for the campaign, selected 130 students to be official fundraisers and oversaw 20 special events.

“Money started flowing in October and with every event, a new record was set,” Perrin said. The final tally, $282,145, exceeded the year’s goal by more than 40 percent. “It was one of the most rewarding and stressful years of my life,” Perrin said, “but I wouldn’t change my experience for anything.”

Edmond North Student Council adviser Brian Hunter said, “Perrin was really shy her freshman year but started blossoming as an individual. By her junior year she had become an outstanding leader with outstanding character. As BALTO co-chair she took our existing program and improved it, and as a senior she is Student Council president mentoring the younger students. She is an incredibly dedicated worker and leads by example.”

Mason, an eighth-grader at Guthrie Junior High School, has become a crusader against childhood obesity after shedding 85 pounds in the seventh grade.

“Once upon a time, I was very unhealthy, overweight and picked on by bullies,” Mason said. “In the sixth grade, at my heaviest, 206 pounds, I told my parents I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.” He started exercising and making smarter food choices, and by the beginning of the next school year, he had dropped an astonishing 85 pounds “and felt awesome!” he said.

Recognizing that childhood obesity is a big problem nationally, Mason figured he could use his example to persuade other overweight kids that they, too, can slim down. Since he regarded 85 as his “magic number,” he resolved to meet 85 important or famous people who could help him tell his story and host or attend 85 events to raise awareness of childhood obesity. So he spends much of his free time reaching out to people and planning or appearing at special events. His celebrity encounters have included first lady Michelle Obama and the mayor of Oklahoma City, who invited him to the State of the City address. He has organized several fitness events and participated in many others and works hard to promote each one. In addition, Mason speaks in front of school assemblies and other groups, accompanied by a slide show. “I am the boy that could barely finish exercise during football and now I run 5Ks,” he said. “Don’t let people tell you it can’t be done. Believe with all of your heart and do it.”

As State Honorees, Perrin and Mason each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2013.

The program judges also recognized four other Oklahoma students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

“Prudential is proud to honor these students for making meaningful contributions to their communities,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “We hope that shining a spotlight on their initiative, creativity and compassion inspires others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”  

High school volunteers can make a difference in society.

“Through their volunteer service, each of these young people has made his or her mark on at least one person, school or community,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “When you consider the collective impact of each of these individual acts, it’s clear that young people can be a major force for good.”