Monday, November 3, 2008

The Creative Kids Make a Difference and Earn Presidential Service Awards

Nine child leaders from Plymouth, MA, who named themselves “The Creative Kids” received Presidential Service Awards for their community service this summer. The children were empowered to bring families together for a day of fun at an event they created and led called “Into Our World Day” on August 23, 2008, at JunglePlex. Lynne Richardson, proud mother of Shane & Ainsley Richardson, had the idea to coach a group of children in creating such an event when she realized that the most important gift she could give to her children was herself. “With the many demands on parents today,” Lynne said, “our time can seem like the hardest gift to give, yet when we choose to play, we connect and communicate with our children in a way that greatly impacts their self-esteem and confidence.” Liz Parsons, a teacher in Duxbury and supporter of the Reggio Emilia approach to learning (where children are honored and respected for their potential, capabilities and humanity) was also a coach on the project. Parents Erin Murphy and Sue Breault contributed in extraordinary ways with their dedicated support.

Into Our World Day was a huge success with over 200 people in attendance. The day cost only $5 per family thanks to the support of JunglePlex ( and included sports, games, arts & crafts, face painting, a moonwalk, raffle prizes donated by 23 local sponsors, and entertainment showcasing Brett Outchcunis (a.k.a. “Ooch”) of Ninepoints Entertainment (, a captivating Yo-Yo professional and life skills coach for children. Parents reconnected with their inner child, left their to-do lists behind and focused on truly “being” with their children. The kids had a blast playing and competing with their parents, and many families expressed interest in future events!

The Creative Kids were proud of the difference they made for families and are considering other ways to give back to the community. They donated proceeds to Autism Speaks which funds autism research & awareness. If you are interested in unlocking the self-expression and leadership skills of children, or if you’d like to find out how your child can get involved, please contact Lynne Richardson at If you are interested in learning how “Ooch” can make a difference in your child’s school, he can be reached directly at

The Creative Kids (except for little Ainsley Richardson in the front row) were or are students of Indian Brook Elementary School - the first (and so far only) Take Pride School in Massachusetts.

Hyattsville Elementary School Students Attend Signing Ceremony in Washington, DC

On October 28, 2008, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne signed an order extending the authorization of Take Pride in America® within the Department of the Interior through the year 2010. The program, designed to encourage volunteerism on public lands, had been set to expire on November 1, 2008. As part of the ceremony we invited students from Hyattsville Elementary School in Hyattsville, Maryland, one of our Take Pride Schools, to attend the ceremony. Mrs. Amelia Davis, the TAG (Talented and Gifted) Coordinator/Library Media Specialist, and 2 of her 6th grade TAG students, Jose Mendoza Duarte and Billy Kennedy III, were able to accept our invitation to attend. We asked them to tell us in their own words about their experience. This is what they had to say (actual submissions).

Jose Mendoza Duarte

In the beginning we left Hyattsville Elementary School to go to Washington, DC. I was site seeing, like I saw the monument and some other stuff. When we entered the parking lot and got out the car it was pretty windy, then we crossed the street entered the building but before we got on the elevator we had to go through security to see if we had anything illegal. I got checked and I was OK (of course). We went up the elevator to the 6th floor. We put our coats in an office and used the restroom. We walked to the Secretary of Interior’s office and it was big!!! It had the first president’s (George Washington’s) desk!!! He showed Billy and me the papers he was going to sign and he asked for 2 pens; I wondered why. When he signed the papers, he used one pen with his first name and with the other pen he signed his last name. I got one of the pens and Billy got the other. Later on we sat down on these comfy sofas and he asked us what we were going to be when we were older. Then other people talked about what they did, what happened when they were volunteering, were they scared, etc. We took some pictures and some people got rewards. We didn’t (sadly). After we left the office we got a bag filled with goodies like a cap, bumper sticker, Frisbee, pencil bag filled with some school supplies, candle, etc. I had a lot of fun and hope to go again.

Billy Kennedy III

On Tuesday October 28, 2008, I went with Jose Mendoza, Ms. Davis & my mom to watch the Secretary of the Interior extend Take Pride in America through November 2010. The day was very windy, and in the office, we could hear the wind whistling. The office was very fancy and huge. George Washington, the first president of the United States, had a desk that was in the secretary’s office. After he signed the bill, we were presented with the pens he used to sign the form. Afterwards, we were given a gift bag filled with a tote bag, a candle, a cup, a bumper sticker, a Frisbee, a pencil bag, etc. I had a lot of fun and I hope I can enjoy similar experiences in the future.

Mrs. Amelia Davis

A visit to the Department of the Interior to meet with Secretary Dirk Kempthorne was a highlight for two TAG students at Hyattsville Elementary along with their teacher. The students were fascinated with Washington’s landmarks as well as participating in the signing ceremony in which Secretary Kempthorne extended the Take Pride in America authorization. The students listened intently to the stories of other volunteers who were at the signing and enjoyed chatting with the Secretary about their volunteer efforts.

This is the second year in which Hyattsville Elementary School has participated in the Take Pride in America Schools Program by volunteering during Gorgeous Prince George’s Day. Parents, teachers, and students planted trees, shrubs and bulbs in an effort to beautify the school grounds. In addition, the TAG students at Hyattsville participated in weeding and planting native Maryland plants to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The students took a trip on board a skipjack to learn more about Bay conservation, pollution, and the animals and plants that inhabit the Chesapeake Bay. They also displayed a “museum” research project in the school’s media center to increase student awareness of the beauty, problems and environmental importance of the Chesapeake Bay.

The staff at Take Pride in America wants to thank Mrs. Davis, Jose, and Billy, for attending the signing ceremony. These 2 boys were perfect gentleman and everyone commented on how great it was they were here. We would also like to thank Mrs. Washburn, the principal at Hyattsville Elementary School, for allowing the students and Mrs. Davis to be with us. I know that she had to pull some strings to get permission from those above her and we are grateful for her efforts.

On a personal note, I want to say how proud I am of Billy (he’s my son) and Jose. They represented Hyattsville Elementary well and they should be very proud of themselves.

If you would like information on how to become a Take Pride School, visit our website at or contact us at 202-208-5848.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Take Pride School In Action

This past Spring Jericho Middle School students (pictured above) of the eight grade community service classes and the Gardening Club recently planted over 150 tree seedlings on the school grounds as part of the Take Pride in America Schools program. Take Pride volunteer Jan Porinchak, a teacher at Jericho schools, coordinated the effort with teachers Spiridoula Nikolopoulos, Danielle Dunbar, and gardening club advisor Cheryl Viviano. A 40 foot by 8 foot planting bed was first constructed under the supervision of Tim Almeida and the staff of the Jericho Buildings and Grounds department. The seedlings were ordered through the New York State D.E.C, which offers nursery grown seedlings of trees native to New York. The D.E.C. offers some seedlings for free to schools. The remainder of the over 150 trees were paid for through fund raising efforts of the community service class.

The students researched which trees would grow best on Long Island. They also studied the benefits of the various trees to wildlife, landscape, and the community. Over two days the Take Pride volunteers planted white pines, red oaks, sycamores, crab apple trees, and highbush cranberry shrubs. Thanks to the hard work, careful planning, and enthusiasm, the seedlings are growing well. Over the next several school years the seedlings will be relocated to various parts of the school grounds to create wildlife habitat and enhance the beauty of the school grounds.

The students learned how gratifying working together to accomplish a goal can be.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Buddy Lawrence, Presidential Volunteer Service Awardee

(L-R: Bonnie Wright, President FOHI; Buddy Lawrence and Vivian Wayne FOHI Turtle Director.)

Friends of Hunting Island volunteer Buddy Lawrence is known for his "Midas Touch" when it comes to finding, identifying and confirming new sea turtle nests on the beaches of Hunting Island in South Carolina. So it is only appropriate that he found the first nest of the 2008 turtle season.

Buddy has been a volunteer with the FOHI for over 8 years and has contributed over 4,500 hours doing morning turtle patrols, nighttime turtle hatching monitoring, hatching inventories, maintaining a certified National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat at the Nature Center and helping out with other FOHI projects at Hunting Island.

This past spring Buddy was recognized for his outstanding service and was presented with the President's Lifetime Volunteer Service Award.

Congratulations Buddy! And a special thanks to our friends at Hunting Island State Park and to the amazing volunteers who make up the Friends of Hunting Island.

(L-R: Vivian Wayne, FOHI Turtle Director; Bonnie Wright, President FOHI; Buddy Lawrence and Jeff Atkins, Park Manager.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

NPLD: Toyota Employees at the Salato Wildlife Education Center

The Take Pride in America® Voluntour Across America, Heartland Voluntour arrived at the Salato Wildlife Education Center Saturday, Sept. 27 to join employees from Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Georgetown, Ky. for their National Public Lands Day event.

More than 200 employees, many arriving after their overnight shifts, were joined by volunteers from Franklin County High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC and football team, as well as 17 international students from Kentucky State University, to pick up litter, build trails, and pull invasive weeds.

The efforts added to the education center’s Toyota sponsored “Habitrek” trail and a lot of sweat went into clearing invasive honeysuckle, winter creeper vine and privet bushes that were taking over the area behind the black bear exhibit. That required muscle and something called a weed wrench to remove the thick roots. On the hill in front of the exhibit, another team was digging deep holes for rain ponds and building a berm to keep rains from flooding the bear exhibit.

Toyota, sponsor of Voluntour Across America, has a corporate philosophy of giving back to the community, according to one of the plants vice presidents, Takao Gonno. “The concept is called Shakai Koken which translates meaning social contribution,” Gonno said.

The big event in Kentucky marked the end of the 2008 Voluntour Across America and the “Heartland Voluntour” which covered more than 2,900 miles and six states recognizing and participating in volunteer events on public lands.

Students from Kentucky University's CASS program.

Franklin County High School Football Team.

Toyota employees and family take part in a variety of activities.

Working on the Habitrek trail.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ohio State University & Keep Columbus Beautiful

Columbus, Ohio was recently named one of the cleanest cities in America...that can be attributed in part to the efforts of Keep Columbus Beautiful. Today KCB partnered with the Ohio State University Students Engaged in Responsible Volunteering for their annual Community Commitment day of service. Over 1,500 OSU freshman participate in this event aimed at getting college students involved in the local community, and it is one of the largest service events held on a college campus.

Buckeyes gathered early to receive assignments that ranged from helping local youth, serving meals and outdoor clean up. KCB organized the outdoor clean up portion of the event, and nearly 600 students participated in litter removal and beautification projects in neighborhoods surrounding the OSU campus.

Event organizers, Jack Bruce, Mike Eizyk and Cristen Porter (pictured below) did an amazing job coordinating this effort.

Sherri Palmer, along with the KCB staff also did an excellent job organizing the students into groups and getting them sent out into neighborhoods armed with litter picker-uppers, trash bags, gloves and other helpful tools.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ice Age Trail: Lapham Peak

Getting families to get outside and enjoy nature together was the goal of the event hosted by REI and the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation. And with 30 parents and children joining volunteer organizers, Frank and Russ for a 1.5 mile hike at Lapham Peak near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that goal was met.

Lapham Peak is the highest in the county and is a favorite recreation spot for many locals. Visitors hike, backpack, snowshoe, cross country ski and camp at this 1,000 acre state park.

Volunteer naturalist Mike Fort lead the hike and explained the prairie restoration project that volunteers from the Foundation, along with the Friends of Lapham Peak have been working on for many years. Participants had an opportunity to collect seeds that will be planted along the trail as a part of the restoration efforts. Kids experience nature first hand walking along the well groomed trail, looking to the sky as a flock of geese flew by and chasing a little frog in the grass.