Maggie Walker Senior Wins State Volunteering Award

Samantha Halle, 18, of Richmond was named one of Virginia's top two youth volunteers for 2010 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. The awards program, now in its 15th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

Samantha was nominated by Maggie L. Walker Governor's School in Richmond. As a State Honoree, Samantha will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where she will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for several days of national recognition events. Ten of them will be named America’s top youth volunteers for 2010 at that time.

Samantha, a senior at Maggie Walker Governor’s School, has played a key volunteer role at a children’s bereavement camp over the past three years, after attending the camp as a daughter grieving for her father. Samantha came reluctantly to Comfort Zone Camp in Richmond following her father’s death in 2002. “Prior to camp, I bottled up my emotions, was angry, and very guarded,” she said. “But by the end of my first camp weekend, I was smiling again.” In fact, Samantha found the camp so beneficial that she could hardly wait until her 15th birthday, when she could become a junior counselor. “I knew I would be able to put a smile on a camper’s face while showing them that they’ll be okay – I’m living proof,” said Samantha.

Since then, Samantha has worked at nearly 20 camp sessions and advanced to the position of head junior counselor. In addition to helping to make the camp a fun and safe place for kids who have lost a parent or sibling, Samantha trains other volunteers, speaks frequently at recruiting and fund-raising events, and offers to stay in touch with campers after their sessions are over. During one of her speeches, she persuaded a women’s club to adopt the camp as one of its projects, resulting in a $30,000 donation.
Samantha was chosen as one of only five volunteers to help start a new Comfort Zone in California, and helped select the site of another new camp in Texas. Also, Samantha has been assisting with publications, video production, and other communications projects, including the creation of a teen resource section on the Comfort Zone website. “As it gets closer to the seven-year anniversary of my Dad’s death,” said Samantha, “I’m reminded that losing him has given me a chance to make a difference. I’m grateful.”