WASHINGTON, D.C. — The youngest person to ever represent the Lima region at the national Jefferson Awards spoke about the importance of blood donations Tuesday.
Lauren Cunningham, 14, spoke at the national awards breakfast Tuesday. Each of the winners from across the country spoke for about a minute at the event, sponsored by Multiplying Good, the rebranded name for the American Institute for Public Service and Jefferson Awards Foundation.
“When I was 9 years old, I was diagnosed with leukemia,” Cunningham told the crowd. “Through my treatment, which was about 2 1/2 years, I got over 80 transfusions that saved my life. We started doing blood drives in 2014 and have since then done about 13, and raised over 900 units of blood. Every unit saves 3 lives.”
Cunningham also collected more than 450 pounds of pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House and spends an average of 15 hours a week writing encouraging notes to children and local people fighting cancer, assembling care packages for caregivers and patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and collecting books for Ronald McDonald House.
At a gala dinner in the evening, five national winners picked up the the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service Benefiting the Local Community, which celebrates extraordinary and selfless volunteer work. The winners included Tim Arnold, of Cincinnati; Wayne Bisek, of Madison, Wis.; Renee Fahey, of Albany, N.Y.; Dr. Kit Ford, of the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa; and Christian Ramey, of Charleston, S.C.
They were honored alongside Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who received the Outstanding Public Service in Professional Sports award for his Von’s Vision, which provides low-income children with eye care and corrective eyewear around Denver. Patagonia’s Avi Garbow also accepted an award for Outstanding Public Service by a Corporation on behalf of the company, which donated more than $185 million to nonprofit environmental groups and conservation efforts since 1973.
The program is in its 47th year and honored more than 63,000 people. It was cofounded by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sen. Robert Taft Jr. and Sam Beard.