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A couple days ago I had the honor of receiving the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, along with 20 other incredible young people from throughout the US and Canada. While the award is in my name, it is really a recognition of all the work that RUFC has accomplished in the past 3 years. Achieving this recognition for our work is incredibly important to all of us at RUFC. It gives us the opportunity to raise awareness about what we do, increases our credibility, and it gives us some much needed momentum moving into the next fundraising season.
It’s also personally nice to get acknowledged because most of the time being the face of, and running, a non-profit is difficult, time consuming work. I’ve already written on this blog about some of the struggles. People question my credibility and my motives. They challenge me on the work I do and often times refuse to give up their hard earned dollars. Sometimes I even wonder whether the hard work I put in is really making a difference in the world.
But then I got a beautiful plaque in the mail: “In recognition of extraordinary service to people and our planet.” Is there anything cooler to be recognized for that that?! I don’t think so! I couldn’t help but smile because I know that there are people that believe in me and the work I am trying to accomplish. And I’m not alone in my struggle to better our world and to spread happiness among its people. People of all ages around the world are dedicated to these things. But reading through the list of this year’s Gloria Barron Prize winners I felt a special kinship and respect for my fellow young ‘heroes’. While we are working on diverse issues in very different communities, I know they have faced many similar challenges as me.
To my fellow ‘heroes’ I want to congratulate you. Like me, you may go through periods where you get discouraged. You may be seen by your peers as unrealistic for wanting to promote change and a lot of the time it may feel like the work you do will make very little actual difference in the world. But you are not alone and together we are making a difference. Also, I know the attention you get as the ‘face’ of a successful philanthropic effort and getting awards can be a bit embarrassing. Because we know that none of us are ‘heroes’ alone. Many people support us and make it possible for us to work on the issues that are important to us even though we are just kids. For many of us that’s our parents. I know I would never be recognized as a ‘hero’ if it weren’t for my parents.
I also know that none of us do what we do for any prizes or recognition. In the end, it doesn’t matter if people recognize us because we are committed to our work. We see the change we make and we know that no matter what others think, we are working to make a positive impact. If we receive recognition or not we will strive to do what is right for people and our planet and try to make the world that we inherited better for everyone. We have been given a platform and the experience to not only address problems directly but to educate people. While we don't do it for awards, the Gloria Barron Prize will help us spread our message farther and help us to make a bigger difference.
With the support of the Gloria Barron Prize, I am recommitting to my efforts to promote health, wellness and global citizenship. Many people struggle to connect a foreign concept, like extreme poverty, with people who are almost identical to them. Not everyone knows that millions of people live on less than a dollar a day, and even fewer know the actual people that do. As one who does, I will continue to fight to reduce poverty, raise awareness, and increase opportunities for all kids.
In the end, it’s not about awards, but I have to say… the recognition is still cool. I am honored to be recognized among the wonderful people working for positive change.
Ray Wipfli, RUFC founder, shares his thoughts.