Guest blog by Janice MacLeod, National Children & Youth Committee Member
From time to time, you may hear about incredible acts of bravery or kindness by young boys and girls. You might learn of young people who ask friends to remember their birthdays with care package items for an individual or a group in need, rather than a birthday gift for themselves. They may have a family member in the military and learn about the needs of men and women who are deployed and, rather than providing just for their relative, they take on a project that will benefit others in the same situation or with the same needs.
Outstanding acts can result from participation with other groups or can be an idea or project started by one youngster on their own or with friends. Their actions can provide direct services or simply raise awareness about needs or issues. Often, a project started by one individual can mushroom into a large group effort that produces an even greater impact.
Very often our youth see solutions in simple terms, and they don’t see obstacles or reasons not to do something. Their approach to helping someone or righting a wrong can be simple, straightforward, and effective. Occasionally we hear about a youngster reacting to an emergency with incredible bravery and thoughtful action. In cases such as those, consider recognizing those individuals through our Children & Youth program.
The Youth Hero and Good Deed awards were created in 2002 by the National Children & Youth Committee and are presented throughout the year to recognize heroism, kindness, compassion, and helpfulness. The awards are open to youth under age 18, and the recipients do NOT need to be eligible for membership in The American Legion Family to receive an award. Winners receive a certificate from our National Headquarters and Youth Hero award winners will also receive a medal. Units can also provide additional rewards as they deem appropriate.
Units and members are encouraged to contact schools, scouts, and similar youth groups to make them aware of the American Legion Auxiliary’s award program. When worthy nominees are identified, American Legion Auxiliary units are asked to recognize those outstanding young people by completing nomination forms for the Youth Hero/Good Deed award (available on the Children & Youth page when you log in to the Members Only section at www.ALAforVeterans.org). The forms will need to be signed by two unit members and should then be submitted to department secretaries.
Once applications for this award have been processed by our National Headquarters, units should then contact local media, community school leaders, town officials, the children’s parents, etc. to plan for public presentations of the awards.
Youth who exhibit good citizenship and kindness deserve to be recognized as they are demonstrating a kind of intentional selflessness. Telling their stories can be inspiring to others and help create a culture of caring, giving, volunteerism, and public service.
The power of one person’s example can be significant, so you’re encouraged to recognize outstanding actions and efforts by our young boys and girls whenever possible with Youth Hero and Good Deed awards.