Guest blog by Anselma Obremski, National Children & Youth Committee Vice Chair
Just imagine you are 9 years old and suddenly wake up to a horrible smell. You get out of bed, open your bedroom door, and see flames in the front of the house. You run and wake your younger brother, take him to your parents’ room, and then wake them. Mom and Dad help you escape through the window. The fire department is called but because you are in a rural area, you watch your house burn completely down before help can arrive. No one is injured but the house is lost.
The community rallies around your family with help and members of The American Legion Family provide necessities and a temporary place to stay for all of you. The local unit then nominates you, a 9-year-old hero, for the American Legion Auxiliary Youth Hero Award. This is a true story, and I had the honor to be able to present the award to a deserving youth during a special dinner in her honor.
The ALA Youth Hero award recognizes children who place themselves in difficult circumstances to help others, typically demonstrating a physical act of valor. These young people exemplify the motto Service Not Self. They deserve to be recognized for their actions.
Recently on social media, there have been stories of young teens racing into burning buildings to help elderly residents to safety. If you see a story like this, investigate its source, and if true, make sure to submit the deserving youth for the award and recognition.
It might be that the act doesn’t quite meet the requirements of the ALA Youth Hero Award; the American Legion Auxiliary Good Deed Award could potentially fit the bill.
Simply put, this award is for showing exceptional kindness to another by demonstrating a leadership role in community service. Did a youth stand up to a bully in school while coming to the aid of the bullied victim? This requires courage and compassion. Our youth should be commended for choosing not to walk away or ignore the situation, but to stand up for someone who was being bullied.
Or perhaps you know of a teenager who regularly checks in on an elderly neighbor to see how she is doing. In winter, the teen shovels the neighbor’s walk when it snows. These are good deeds and deserving of consideration for the ALA Good Deed Award.
The ALA Good Deed Award is given to those children who show kindness and thoughtfulness to others without expecting anything in return. There have been such kind acts on social media recently. One example was a story aired on a Maryland TV station but actually took place in North Carolina. A little digging and the information was relayed to Auxiliary members in the Department of North Carolina for action. Teamwork in action!
In celebration of the ALA’s 100th anniversary, we will be shooting for 100 of each award this year! That’s an average of about two a department. As you can imagine, the Youth Hero Award might be a bit more difficult to find.
To help us achieve 100 each, the National Committee has a couple of “social media scouts” who will scan newspapers, news stories, and social media looking for youth who are deserving of either award. But all of us should keep our eyes open as well! For those of you on social media, once you find a deserving youth, please use the hashtags #ALAGoodDeed or #ALAYouthHero as the National Committee will be searching those.
Once identified, the next step requires a commitment from all of us — make sure to let a local unit know so they can submit the award nomination form; perhaps you need to bring it up at your own unit meeting. So I challenge all of you to keep your eyes open and share what you find.
Let’s get out there and use the tools at our disposal — social media, personal contact, news media, or just a conversation with a friend to find these youth heroes and thoughtful children so that they might receive the recognition they deserve.
And of course, once you have submitted a youth and have the award back in your hands for presentation, please make a big “to do” of it! Celebrate the child’s success. Let your local media outlets know through use of the Youth Hero Award news release template as well as social media. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful event if the child was recognized throughout the community? Those presenting, be sure to wear ALA branded attire. A win/win for all!
Details on the ALA Children & Youth program, to include the Program Action Plan and its Supplement, as well as the ALA Youth Hero and Good Deed Award nomination form and press release can be found in the Members Only section of the National website at www.ALAforVeterans.org/Programs/Children-and-Youth, on the ALA Children & Youth Program Facebook group at www.Facebook.com/groups/ALAChildrenandYouth, or you can contact National Headquarters at (317) 569-4500 or children&youth@ALAforVeterans.org.