By HOWARD BALABAN firstname.lastname@example.org
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — GASPORT — The Maier Family of Gasport is taking its first trip to Washington, D.C. this May, and it has their youngest daughter to thank.
Haley Maier, 11, has been named one of New York State’s top two youth volunteers of the year by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The program operates nationwide in an effort to honor youths who go above and beyond when they volunteer.
As the baby of the family, Haley never met her grandmother. “I always heard stories from my family about Grandma, and they were always inspiring stories,” she said. At the end of her life, Haley’s grandmother battled Alzheimer’s Disease. Getting to know her grandmother through the family stories led to Haley searching for a way to honor her.
Haley’s volunteer project involved the creation of crocheted necklaces using ladder yarn, an idea that actually came from her mom, Sue.
“I was trying to figure out what to do and Mom came home one day and suggested it,” Haley said.
Mrs. Maier taught her how to crochet the necklaces, and since then Haley has made and sold many. In a very short period of time she sold $400 worth. But the Barker sixth-grader needed to find a cause worthy enough for a donation.
“I was going to donate the money to cancer research, but then I thought of my grandma and decided to give to the Alzheimer’s Association,” Haley explained.
She added that the goal is to mimic what other honored volunteers have done in the past.
“I haven’t been doing this too long and I know I want to do something,” Haley said. “Online, I’ve seen that some winners of this award have raised thousands of dollars, so I hope I do enough to raise a lot more than I have already.”
Mrs. Maier mentioned the pride she and her husband, Dave, have for their youngest daughter. Haley’s mom added that she was “thrilled” the local award went her daughter’s way this past fall, she had no idea it would become what it has.
Still, the winning is something that Mrs. Maier said has not affected Haley’s attitude toward the project. If anything, it has made her work harder.
“Each necklace takes 45 minutes to an hour to make, and she does all the stitching and cutting herself,” Mrs. Maier said. Haley said that she was looking for a few friends to help her make more necklaces in a shorter amount of time as a way of maximizing the output of the effort.
Meanwhile, Haley had a guess at what her grandmother would think of her project.
“From the stories I’ve heard, I think she’d be pretty proud,” she said. “Everyone said she was really nice and caring.”
As part of the awards program, Haley will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion, and the aforementioned trip to Washington, D.C. She also received certificates from the White House.
While at the nation’s capital in May, Haley will be joined by New York State’s high school honoree (from Staten Island), and the rest of the country’s two honorees per state. By the end of the trip, 10 students will be named the top youth volunteers of 2014.