In 1972, when I was just two years old, First Lady Jackie Kennedy established the Jefferson Awards as a Nobel Prize for public and community service. 42 years later, the Jefferson Awards is celebrated as “the most prestigious prize for public service in America.” In June, I was honored to represent my fellow Hoosiers at the national ceremonies in Washington DC thanks to the generous support and endorsement from local Jefferson Awards media partner WRTV. In a whirlwind three days, my husband and I were treated to receptions, speeches, presentations and personal visits with our US Senators. We met the 42 other Jefferson Award winners from around the country and heard their stories. Marine Corporal Josh Bleill, Indianapolis Colts Community Spokesperson, kicked off the impact breakfast with his personal story of loss, perseverance, determination and hope. The event culminated in a black tie gala dinner that honored and celebrated all of us winners.
The Jefferson Awards National Ceremonies was one of the single best experiences I have had in my professional career. At every turn I heard stories that were humbling and inspiring. And I kept asking myself how I ended up there. I’m just a gal who goes to work every day like everyone else. In a world where we can be deluged with stories of sadness, poverty, prejudice, heartache, crime, and apathy, it was nice to spend the better part of a week meeting people that are fighting for injustice every day and creating positive change across the globe.
While the Jefferson Awards celebrated and validated the work that we do, above all, it gave me hope. Hope that unmet needs are being addressed every day. Hope for the families I work with at School on Wheels. Hope that young philanthropists of today will create a tomorrow that is safer, stronger and better. For all of you who have been with me on this journey, thank you so much. I hope I represented you well.