UDance and Lori’s Hands honored with Jefferson Awards for Public Service
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 23:10
UDance and Lori’s Hands, two Resident Student Organizations on campus, were recently honored in an on-campus ceremony for winning first place in the national 2013 Youth Service Challenge. The challenge is an initiative of the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, an organization dedicated to recognizing and honoring acts of community service, Michele Fidance, national director of the Jefferson Awards said.
According to Jefferson Awards’ website, this year, UDance won first place in the health and wellness category, while Lori’s Hands won first place in the elder care category. There were 27 winners nationwide, spanning across nine categories, including education and literacy, environment and sustainability and peace and justice, among several others.
“The purpose of the Youth Service Challenge is to capture the youth demographic and instill in them values of lifelong giving,” Fidance said. “The program gives young people a platform for projects they’re passionate about and allows them to share their talent and win national recognition.”
Fidance said the Jefferson Awards for Public Service was founded in 1972 to honor volunteer efforts on both a local and national level. Beginning in 2005, current president Sam Beard created a separate division to focus on youth initiatives as a way to encourage and recognize volunteers under the age of 25.
“What’s so great about this program is that the six-year-old is just as passionate as the participants on a college level,” Fidance said. “We’re able to commend the youth for what they’re doing and help them share their story in the hopes they’ll inspire more students to get involved in service as well.”
Fidance said UDance and Lori’s Hands are two perfect examples of youth organizations that love to connect with the people they are helping and see the impact they are making.
UDance was founded in 2007 by Jessie Forman and partnered with the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation in 2009, according to the organization’s website. Co-Executive Coordinators and seniors Jill Finfrock and Michael Smyth represented UDance at the Jefferson Awards ceremony earlier this month.
Finfrock said the purpose of UDance is to raise funds for pediatric cancer research, as well as increase support and awareness for families who have children with pediatric cancer.
“The most important part of UDance is the relationships that our organization has with the children, our B+ heroes,” Finfrock said. “It’s something that you can’t put a monetary value on, and the memories that both the children and the students take away is something that can never be replaced.”
She said it is her and Smyth’s goal to make UDance a part of the university culture and for UDance to be part of every student’s top three college experiences by the time they graduate.
Smyth said he believes UDance deserved the Jefferson Award due to the amount of service the organization dedicates to the community through several year-around events, including canning, a 5K, a holiday party with the Heroes and the dance marathon itself.
“This has been a huge year for UDance,” Smyth said. “It’s our first time in the Bob Carpenter Center, and the Jefferson Awards ceremony really proves how we’re moving towards making UDance not only a university-wide event but also open it up to the entire community.”
Co-Presidents and seniors Lisa Centrone and Alexa Rivadeneira nominated Lori’s Hands for the elder care category last spring and accepted the award on the organization’s behalf earlier this month, Rivadeneira said.
Rivadeneira said Lori’s Hands began in 2009 by Sarah LaFave in honor of her mother Lori, who passed away from breast cancer. The image of her parents cleaning the house together after her mother’s surgery made LaFave wonder how families who had chronic illnesses but no access to such resources were able to perform everyday tasks.
Rivadeneira said because of this, LaFave created Lori’s Hands to help chronically ill elders by going grocery shopping for them, taking care of their pets and providing regular companionship for them.
“Lori’s Hands is unique in that we really go out there and immediately see the results of our service, right before our very eyes,” Rivadeneira said. “We do hands-on work and really help change lives.”
Centrone said there are approximately 30 regular members of the club, but the organization is slowly beginning to grow by word-of-mouth as it receives more recognition.
“The Jefferson Service Award was such an honor because it truly shows how far we’ve come,” Centrone said. “Our next goal is hopefully to expand to different chapters at other universities, so that we can make even more of an impact.”
While the Youth Service Challenge begins on a local level, Fidance said it is a two-tiered challenge that eventually has a more national focus. UDance and Lori’s Hands first submitted their applications on a local level, where Mayor Vance A. Funk III selected the top three in each category, based on leadership, engagement and impact.