Volunteerism lands Gumboro youth salute from award-winning actress

18 WILL hilary swank

Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank congratulates Will Kenney, right, of Gumboro and Micah Freer of Wilmington on being named Delaware’s top youth volunteers for 2016 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Will and Micah were among the 102 youth volunteers honored at a ceremony May 1 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fourteen-year-old Will Kenney of Gumboro is currently planning the third edition of a carnival supporting worthy causes.

On May 1, an honored link to Hollywood saluted Will, another Delaware teen and others from across the nation for their volunteerism.

Will, an eighth grade student at Millsboro Middle School, and 18-year-old Micah Freer of Wilmington were honored in the nation’s capital for their outstanding volunteer service during the 21st annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Will and Micah along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Ms. Swank, who won Oscars and Golden Globe Awards for Best Actress for Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby, was the keynote speaker for the event.

Will staged two carnivals in 2014 and 2015 that raised more than $15,000 to help raise awareness, fund medical research and benefit patients who have Sturge-Weber syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.

Stella Hastings, a little girl Will and his family knows who has the disease, inspired Will’s project.

“I decided to have a carnival with activities for all ages so that she could enjoy the fun,” Will said.

After the first “Will ‘s Carnival for a Cause” in August 2014 was a success, Will was more determined than ever to raise money and the public’s awareness of Sturge-Weber with a more elaborate carnival.

17 WILL will with Brooke Miss Delaware

Will’s Carnival for a Cause organizer Will Kenney with Miss Delaware 2016 Brooke Mitchell at last year’s event.

For his second carnival last September, Will gathered a core group of seven volunteers to help him plan. As chairman of the event, he organized monthly meetings, wrote emails and letters soliciting donations for game prizes and a silent auction, asked businesses to donate food and other item, and recruited fellow Millsboro Middle School football teammates to help with logistics.

In addition to the auction and 23 games, the event included three rides, a petting zoo, food and refreshments, a “dunking booth” featuring football coaches and a county councilman and an appearance by Miss Delaware.

To help people understand more about Sturge-Weber syndrome, Will distributed literature at the carnival and posted information on social media.

Most of all, the experience taught him the value of teamwork. “One person cannot move a mountain, but a village can,” he said.

A third carnival event is planned for Aug. 6 at Chick Berry Farms east of Laurel. It will be staged as Will’s Carnival for Causes.

This year, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a form of dysautonomia, joins Sturge-Weber syndrome as the two charitable beneficiaries.

“I know two people with POTS,” Will said.

Micah, a senior at Mount Sophia Academy in Newark, spearheaded a yearlong effort to build a pavilion to be used by church, school and community groups and by families and individuals who hike, bike and jog at an adjacent state park.

“By using their time and talents to better their communities, these young people have achieved great things – and become examples for us all,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “Congratulations to an exemplary group of honorees.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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