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Bedford Fifth-Grader Recipient of National Volunteerism Award

Bedford Fifth-Grader Recipient of National Volunteerism Award

By Nancy Foster
for Bedford Journal

She may be just a fifth-grader at Peter Woodbury School, but Hillary Hughes has been hard at work trying to make life a little bit better for kids just like her all around the world, and on Monday, Hughes was named one of the top 10 youth volunteers in the country.

Hughes said she started becoming concerned about less fortunate kids around the age of 5, and as a young girl she would gather together school and art supplies to donate to needy kids in her area.

In 2004, when a tsunami washed across Southeast Asia, Hughes said she was moved to take action.

The tsunami was very scary, and I wanted to help the people,? she said.

Hughes, 11, started a nonprofit foundation called Color my World: Kids who Care, which has collected more than $11,000 worth of items, including warm blankets and personal care products, for victims of natural disasters in Southeast Asia, Chile and the Gulf of Mexico.

In order to put together the 900 personal care kits sent to victims of the 2004 Tsunami, 50 quilts sent to poor children in Chile, and 250 care packages to Hurricane Katrina victims, Hughes assembled a willing group of volunteers, both young and old, to fill boxes and solicit contributions.

Though part of her mission is to help those in need, her real mission is to get people involved.

I want to help more kids get into volunteer work, Hughes said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., where she was named one of the top ten youth volunteers in the country Monday morning.

Hughes was one of 102 kids from around the country to receive a Prudential Spirit of Community State award, but she was one of only 10 in a field of more than 20,000 applicants to win the national Spirit of Community award.

Along with a gold medallion and a $5,000 grant to help fund her charitable works, Hughes’ Girl Scout Troop from the Swift Water Council was given a crystal trophy as well.

Hughes and Derry resident Ammu Irivinti, 16, represented New Hampshire and joined the top two volunteers from each state in Washington over the weekend to attend events surrounding the Spirit of Community Awards, including a reception at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Hughes was the youngest recipient of the 2006 national Spirit of Community award, and she’s just beginning in her quest to make the world just a little bit better for those around her.

In the immediate future, Hughes wants to start working on a project to help protect kids who use the Internet.

I want kids to be safe, she said, and she’ll be working toward that goal in the coming months. But she doesn’t believe her passion of volunteerism is just a passing fancy.

I want to continue doing volunteer work for the rest of my life, she said.