How Naperville teen became one of nation's top 10 volunteers
Jungin "Angie" Lee's volunteer efforts that raised nearly $200,000 to seek a cure for her rare disease also have earned her recognition as one of the top 10 youth volunteers in the nation.
Angie, 17, of Naperville, was named a National Honoree on Monday in Washington, D.C., in the 21st annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Along with nine others ages 10 to 18 across the country, she was awarded $5,000, a medallion, a trophy for her school -- Metea Valley High in Aurora -- and a $5,000 grant for the charity of her choice.
It's a safe bet she'll choose Angie's Hope, a nonprofit group she founded nine years ago with her friend Kyra Scadden to raise money to help find a cure for spinal muscular atrophy, which she was found to have when she was 15 months old.
The disease weakens the nerves in the spinal cord and decreases muscle strength. Angie uses a wheelchair but says she's one of the stronger patients and works hard to keep it that way.
In the nation's capital with her parents for a long weekend of sightseeing and recognition events, Angie said she was shocked her volunteer efforts drew so much national prestige from the Prudential contest, which aims to recognize outstanding service by young people to inspire others to give back.
The other nine National Honorees collected books for kids in need or gathered books, games and DVDs for kids at hospitals; raised money to help people with special needs; collected donations for premature babies; surprised needy kids with Christmas gifts; started youth food bank volunteer programs; supported bullied children; or helped homeless youths.
"I have met so many awesome people who are just so genuinely caring about the society and the rest of the world and are determined to help out in any way they can," Angie said. "Meeting those people has been my favorite part."
Locally, Angie was celebrated for being named the Illinois high school winner during the spring pep assembly April 15 at Metea.
She said the school community has done much to help make Angie's Hope events, such as a Big Ball Soccer Tournament, a success. She's planning "something big" for the charity's 10th anniversary and her senior year, and one Prudential awards attendee suggested she expand the organization to other states.
"It'd be a big deal," she said about a multistate expansion. "But that's definitely an idea I wouldn't have had if I hadn't come here."