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updated: 3/23/2014 6:27 AM

Photo shoot turns into something special

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The lead-in headline to Monday's Caring in Action feature says it all: "The 10 members of the Daily Herald's DuPage Leadership Team met for the first time in December for a photo shoot. Then something really special happened ... "

The first sign this photo session was going to be different came not long after introductions were made, says Robert Sanchez, our assistant city editor who organizes coverage of the DuPage County Leadership and Academic teams after they are selected each year.

"These kids were really talkative; it's like they all knew each other."

One of them, Meg Maloney of Glen Ellyn, even had a photo staging suggestion: Rather than just stand there, the students should put their arms around each other. Hey, we're always open to a good idea: That shot appeared on the front page of our Dec. 13 DuPage County editions. (We have four separate Leadership and Academic teams; we also recognize the community service efforts of high school students in Northwest Cook County, the Fox Valley and Lake County.)

Meg had another good idea. Being named to the Daily Herald Leadership Team was an honor, she said, but the group shouldn't rest on its laurels.

"We knew that we had this amazing title being named to the Leadership Team," said Meg, a senior at Glenbard West. "Because it was a big deal, we felt like we should do something with the opportunity."

She kept the email addresses of the other Leadership Team members, and contacted them a few weeks later about doing a group project.

Getting the group on board with the concept was the easy part, Sanchez reports in tomorrow's Neighbor editions. Finding a project was a bit more of a challenge. Initially they wanted to raise money for a hospital. But only three schools could accommodate that plan because different fundraisers were planned. Back to the drawing board. Then it hit another team member, Austin Hansen of Naperville: How about volunteering at a local Public Action to Deliver Shelter site for the homeless?

"PADS is unique because it impacts people right here in our community," he told Sanchez. "Instead of raising money for an organization elsewhere, it just made sense to us to focus on our community."

The scope of their volunteerism is still being finalized, but for starters the group plans to spend several hours on Easter Sunday volunteering at a PADS center in Naperville. The students will serve dinner to homeless people spending that night at the shelter. The students also will organize an activity and make bag lunches for the PADS clients.

These 10 young people -- who clearly bonded after they were randomly thrown together -- came up with a project that confirmed the wisdom of the school leaders who nominated them for our Leadership Team. And that's what prompted us to honor our first repeat winners, but this time for a newer creation: Caring in Action, an idea from Assistant City Editor Christie Willhite, who devised it as a way to honor people in our community for their charitable efforts.

While you can read about the 10 repeat winners in Monday's paper, I'd like to give them one extra bit of recognition. In addition to Meg and Austin, they are: Sienna Crosby of Glenbard North, Maria McDaniel of Naperville North, Alissa Whyte of Fenton, Maggie O'Brien of Addison Trail, Mary Doro of Downers Grove North, Katie Mann of Wheaton Academy, Aeriel Euhus of Wheaton North, and Silas Ferrao of Naperville Central.

Hope you're as inspired by their story as I was.

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