Two Wilmington high schoolers were recognized for innovative ideas and volunteerism benefiting the community with 2019 Young Heroes Awards, presented at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia last week.
Ursuline Academy Senior Maggie Boyd and Tower Hill Senior Katelyn Craft were the sole Delawareans recognized this year with the prestigious award sponsored by TD Bank. Thirteen students from around the country and an entire 4th grade glass from Wallingford, Pa., received awards this year.
Boyd has started a small non-profit repurposing special event floral arrangements for senior citizens which she calls Recycled Roses.
And Craft has become a “superhero” to medically fragile children at Exceptional Care for Children in Newark, where she has volunteered over 400 hours since 2016.
Ursuline’s Maggie Boyd recycles roses for seniors
In the spring of her freshman year, as her first Ursuline prom was winding down, Maggie Boyd took note of the beautiful arrangements that were being put into boxes only to be discarded the next day. To Boyd, who loves flowers, that not only seemed wasteful, but it sparked an opportunity. “My grandmother is in a nursing home, and I know she always enjoys receiving fresh flowers. So I decided to take home all the arrangements that night and bring them to a nursing home the next day.
The joyful reception by grateful seniors when Boyd showed up with vase after vase of freshly-cut flowers made clear her idea was a winner.
And that’s when Boyd, 17, decided to take her idea one step further. She made connections with a florist and local special events planners and began collecting arrangements after weddings, corporate events, funerals and school events. And she has become a frequent shopper at the Dollar Store, where she buys smaller vases so she can split up the larger arrangements into many more smaller ones.
Then she donates all of them to elderly residents at nursing homes in the area. She has brightened the day of many by donating flowers to Stonegates Retirement Community, Ingleside Nursing Home, Country Methodist Home and The Kutz Home.
Some weddings have such an abundance of flowers that Boyd makes deliveries to multiple homes on the same day. And in keeping with her desire to reuse and repurpose, Boyd picks up vases to be reused again when arrangements die, and nursing homes contact her to request the pickup.
“I really saw this as a great way to extend the life of expensive flowers and make seniors happy, too,” said Boyd. “They are so excited that someone cares about them, and they seem to really appreciate the effort.”
This kind of work is hardly effortless. Boyd drives all over New Castle County to both pick up and re-distribute flowers. And she has rearranged countless nights and weekends to show up precisely when an event finishes.
“To make this work, she has realized that she absolutely needed to be there, on time and ready, every time,” says her mom MaryBeth Boyd. Now three + years into her budding enterprise – friends now help with the effort – Boyd has donated more than 100 hours to her Recycled Roses program.
Tower Hill’s Katelyn Craft is a superhero to the kids at Exceptional Care for Children
Katelyn Craft, 17, is still in high school. But she is also a devoted, longtime volunteer at Exceptional Care for Children (EEC), a Newark nonprofit.
The nonprofit assigns one nurse to each medically-fragile and technology-dependent child in their residential facility, and they welcome extra hands from students and adults alike. The volunteer role requires a special individual who is comfortable interacting with children of all abilities.
High school students like Katelyn, who rises early to arrive by 7 am every day during the summer and stays until late in the afternoon, are rare.
Some days Katy helps nurses care for one specific child – all day long. Other days she assists many residents in play therapy, free-play, reading or just engaging in positive conversation. Quite simply, she does whatever she can to brighten the days of the residents. And she’s made this her one summer job – as an unpaid volunteer – every summer for four years.
“The quality of Katy’s volunteer work tops that of some of our veteran volunteers,” said Shannon Able, development director at ECC. Able says Craft’s responsible work ethic – like always notifying staff of her arrival ahead of time, sticking to a schedule, and frequently offering to volunteer where help is needed – have made her a shining example of student volunteerism.
Perhaps what the nurses and staff appreciate most is the fact that top notch volunteers like Katy just don’t treat our children like they have medical obstacles.
“Katy has repeatedly shown maturity, dedication and sensitivity. She has a gentle and caring personality that shines through and has formed positive relationships with both the children and staff,” said ECC Volunteer Coordinator Emily Holcombe.
Craft discovered EEC when she researched opportunities to satisfy a 40-hour volunteer requirement at Tower Hill. In her freshman year, Craft enjoyed being a teacher’s assistant in the middle school during her free periods. So the chance to spend time with more children appealed to her. But back in 2016, when she began her relationship with ECC, she didn’t realize how far her commitment would go.
“The first time I visited, I fell in love with everything about the place: the residents and the positive, caring environment created by the nurses, doctors, dietitians, cleaning staff, etc. So I knew I would easily satisy the 40-hour school requirement. But I never expected ECC to become my favorite place to spend time with my young friends,” she said. Craft has logged more than in 100+ hours every summer at ECC, and now has served more than 400 hours there.
“People always make time for the activities that are important to them, and that is exactly what I have done with ECC. I never feel that going to ECC is a chore. These kids inspire me to tackle the challenges in my life like school work, sports training, club leadership, because each one of them displays more courage and faces more adversity on a daily basis than I will in my lifetime,” she says.
“I was extremely honored to receive this award, but I don’t volunteer to get the shout outs,” said Craft. “I do it because it is my passion. However, it is always great to be recognized for my work at Exceptional Care for Children because that just means more people are informed about a truly amazing place filled with truly amazing people.”
Craft says her experience has opened her mind to career choices she might not have ever considered were it not for ECC. She hopes to become a biomedical engineer and focusing on on streamlining equipment that sometimes seems to encumber the patients’ lives.