Statement as issued Tuesday:
Washington, D.C. – The Heart of America Foundation announces Alison Mansfield, a junior at Homestead High School, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, as the 2011 national recipient of The Christopher Reeve Award. The Christopher Reeve Award is presented each year by The Heart of America Foundation to an extraordinary high school senior or younger who has demonstrated tremendous compassion and caring in serving his or her community.
As the recipient of the award, Alison Mansfield will receive a $1,000 college scholarship sponsored by Merriam-Webster, Inc., as well as a gift package of books from Merriam-Webster for her home library. She will also be featured on The Heart of America Foundation’s website.
“Merriam-Webster is pleased to partner with The Heart of America Foundation again this year as a sponsor of their annual Christopher Reeve Award,” says President and Publisher John M. Morse. “In doing so, Merriam-Webster is continuing its long-standing commitment to support students of all ages, and is again pleased to recognize and honor the dedication of students serving their communities, particularly with an award supporting continued education.”
Alison founded Operation U.S. Troop Support, Inc., which supports members of the U.S. military, after completing a 5th grade writing project. Alison’s class was instructed to write about someone who exhibited civic virtue, and she decided to select a person who did the right thing when nobody was watching. In church she had heard about a soldier, Sgt. Slatzer, who received serious injuries in an Iraqi convoy explosion, requiring him to undergo extensive face and skull reconstruction. At the time he was being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center. Alison arranged a phone interview with Sgt. Slatzer and his father. His passion for serving his country, as well as his assertion that he would do it all again if needed, inspired Alison.
Later that year, she had the opportunity to fly to Washington, D.C. and meet Sgt. Slatzer at Walter Reed for Veteran’s Day. Collaborating with the airline she was traveling on, she collected letters of support and thanks from her fellow passengers and hand delivered them to the soldiers at Walter Reed. She began collecting other items later that year.
In 2007 she kicked off Operation Socks For Our Troops, after a local Post Office clerk told her about a relative serving in Afghanistan that requested warm socks. Alison’s initial goal was to gather between 500 and 1,000 pairs of wool socks, but that goal was shattered after the AP picked up a story written about her project in a local paper. As of January 2012, she had collected and shipped over 12,000 pairs of socks to soldiers serving in the coldest parts of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2009, collaborating with the Fort Wayne Museum of Art as well as local artists, she created a coloring book for soldiers to share with Afghan children. 1,000 copies of the book were distributed overseas, along with small toys and treats for the children.
Since that initial visit with Sgt. Slatzer in 2005, Alison has collected and shipped over 72,400 items to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 12,000 pairs of wool socks, 500 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, 50,500 personal hygiene items, 5,000 letters and cards, and small toys for Afghan and Iraqi children. Goods donated, as well as in-kind and cash donations, are valued at an estimated $250,000-$265,000. To learn more about Operation U.S. Troop Support, please visit her website at www.operationustroopsupport.org.
Additional information on the award can be found online at www.heartofamerica.org/heroes.
About The Heart of America Foundation
Celebrating 15 years, The Heart of America Foundation, a national nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C., uniquely promotes volunteer service and literacy. The organization inspires acts of service and a love of reading by building community and providing children in need with the tools to read, succeed and make a difference.
Committed to education and volunteerism, The Heart of America Foundation engages volunteers through putting books into the hands of children who need them the most. Through the Books From The Heart and READesign programs, The Heart of America Foundation revitalizes school libraries and reading spaces in under-resourced communities into vital and vibrant centers of learning that become the heart of a school.
Since 1997, The Heart of America Foundation has provided children living in poverty with over 2.5 million library and take-home books. And, the organization has engaged volunteers in more than one million hours of service to communities nationwide. Learn more at www.heartofamerica.org.