WASHINGTON — Two Utah students, Hailey Daniels, 18, of Ogden, and Luke Hughes, 14, of Bountiful, were honored during the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in the nation’s capital this week for their service.
The students, along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country, each received $1,000 and personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, named Daniels and Hughes Utah's top high school and middle school youth volunteers in February.
Daniels, a senior at Bonneville High School, raises money for the Arthritis Foundation and shares her own story of living with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
“I was going to face this trial with a positive attitude,” she said.
Daniels got her school, church and others in her community involved in making uplifting cards for patients at a local children’s hospital. She delivered the “Love Letters” every six weeks while visiting her doctor at the hospital.
For the foundation’s annual fundraising walk, Daniels formed three teams comprised of family members, friends and fellow high school students. The teams raised more than $6,000 with activities including barbecues, candy sales, dinners at local restaurants and a benefit meal at a soup kitchen.
Hughes, an eighth-grader at Bountiful Junior High School, donated 25 large framed photographs, which he took himself, to decorate the halls of a newly opened facility for homeless veterans.
When he heard that the Valor House, a residential facility for homeless veterans, had opened in his community, Hughes wanted to do something to lift the spirits of the residents.
“I have three great-grandpas who were World War II veterans and lots of neighbors and family friends who have served our country,” he said “It always makes me sad to see veterans who are homeless.
“This project was not a piece of cake,” Hughes said. “I did not realize the amount of effort it would take to execute it.”
After taking and editing the scenic photos, he spent his summer days sanding and painting wood to make custom frames with the help of his neighbor, who is a Vietnam veteran, and members of his Boy Scout troop. Hughes then matted each picture, cut glass for the frame and mounted hardware on the back.