Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Interview with a 2013 Prudential Spirit of Community State Honoree

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. Since 1995, the program has honored more than 100,000 youth volunteers on the local, state and national level. Each year, the program’s judges select 102 State Honorees to receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where 10 of them are named National Honorees.

Once again this year, this blog was invited to interview a state honoree who is  a young military supporter and an inspiring volunteer!

 Michael-Logan Jordan of  Kailua, Hawaii, an 8th grader at Kailua Middle School.

Here is an essay Michael sent:

I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ehlers Danlos Syndrom at the age of 3. My disease decreases my mobility while increasing my pain. My medications include oral meds (about 13 pills a day), infusions (biologics and chemo)and injections. I might walk with a cane at times or become quite ill, but I don't let it get me down. In fact, I found that spreading aloha, volunteering and giving back is the best medicine...ever!

My volunteering started at the age of 5 at a local Toys for Tots warehouse. My parents explained to me that some parents could not afford Christmas for their kids if not for the generosity of others. I couldn't imagine anyone going without at Christmas and at that point, I vowed to help by donating all of my birthday gifts/money to Toys for Tots. My Birthday Bash is in it's 10th year and has put smiles on the faces of over 10,000 kids!

When my Dad was deployed to Fallujah, I enlisted the help of my classmates to make, fill and personalize over 400 Christmas stockings for his unit. For 9 years I have been sending care packages to our troops over seas. I also work with Wounded Warriors. On Dec 24, 2006 my Dad was critically wounded by an IED. As we rehabbed together, we had a better understanding of each other and a better understanding of how "spreading aloha" can change one's life. I hold a special place in my heart for our military. There is no greater sacrifice than to defend our great nation. That is why I work tirelessly to help our military. I know I will never be able to wear the uniform of my Father because of my disease, but I CAN help those who do. I volunteer,  collect clothing/books/toys/food/cards/notes/hygiene items for the Veteran's Homeless Shelter, Wounded Warriors, Lokahi Giving Project, Fisher and Ronald McDonald House. I volunteer, fundraise, donate and support the Gary Sinise Foundation, USO, Operation Homefront and Blue Star Families. I also collect quilting material/supplies for Armed Services YMCA Quilt/Pillow Project for kids of deployed service members.

This year I have added many projects and continue all the ones I started years ago. "Logan's Heroes" started as my Arthritis Walk Team 6 years ago. It has now evolved into the "Logan's Heroes Foundation" where I support, empower inspire and encourage today's youth to volunteer for our many causes. My "Heroes" volunteer right along side me and I have made a "How To" guide and video to start their own projects. I also present "Logan's Heroes Service Awards" to outstanding community leaders. To date, 20 youth and 3 adults in my community have received this award. The prestigious "Logan's Heroes Honu Award" has been received by Gary Sinise (Gary Sinise Foundation) and Dr. Jack Klippel (President/CEO of the Arthritis Foundation) for their Outstanding Service and Leadership to their Community, Country and America's Youth.

I have continued my Ambassadorship with the Arthritis Foundation and this year had the honor to attend the National Juvenile Arthritis Conference. While there, I mentored kids with arthritis by teaching them how to be an advocate, addressed the National Board of Directors and President of the Arthritis Foundation and participated in a flash mob at Disneyland where we promoted Arthritis Awareness. I work closely with my Representatives and Senators about Arthritis and addressed Congress about these needs. My motto is to Educate, Advocate and Donate so that 1 day we may Eliminate Arthritis. I organized an Arthritis Awareness Week at my High School and have raised and donated over $550,000  to many foundations.

I have held 6 beach and park clean-ups, held multiple book drives donating/distributing over 3,000 books, collected/made/donated 75 "Logan's Heroes Care Packages" to critically ill youth and have collected/donated clothing/backpacks/luggage/gift cards to foster youth. I've volunteered with the Hawaii Meth Project, Hawaii Food Bank, Humane Society and Color Vibe. I helped my brother organize food drives and collect 25,000 pounds of food. I also speak publicly about my disease, healthy eating and bullying. I stocked the "Art Cart" at 2 local schools. I facilitated a leadership camp and am a national voice for youth/disabled youth with YACT. I'm a member of Student Council, Peer Education/Leadership, Freshman Class President and Honor Roll. For all of my community service, I received 2 "Michael-Logan Jordan Days" (May 4, 2012 and October 1, 2013) from Mayors Carlisle and Caldwell!

I love being a volunteer and inspiring others to have a heart for service.
And here is the interview with this extraordinary young man

1. What made you decide to start donating your birthday gifts?

 When I was 5, my parents took me to a local Toys For Tots warehouse to volunteer. I could not imagine not having Christmas if not for the generosity of others. I vowed to donate all of my birthday/gifts and money to Toys for Tots and my annual Birthday Bash has been going strong (now in it's 10th year) putting smiles on over 10,000 kids!

2. What was the most rewarding volunteering that you've done so far?

 All of my volunteering is rewarding!  I am passionate about each and everything that I do. All of the work that I do with our Military holds a special place in my heart. My Father has been in the United States Marine Corps for over 20 years and is a Wounded Warrior. My Mother is the 2013 Marine Corps Base Hawaii's Spouse of the Year. I might not ever be able to wear the uniform of my Father due to my disease, but I can honor my military by volunteering/giving back to them!

3. How has being a military child enhanced your volunteer experience?

My siblings and I get our "hearts for service" from our parents. They give back everyday. There is no greater honor than to serve your country. There are many ways to serve your country and military spouses and kids give back too!  I am honored to be a military child!

4. How has volunteering helped you to grow as a person?

Volunteering has helped me grow as a person in so many ways. When I first started volunteering, it helped me not to focus on my pain and illness but to focus on others. It was the best medicine...ever!  However, while that still rings true, I have gained more insight as a young adult.  With each person I have encountered on my journey, I've learned something new...about them and myself. They have inspired me and I have had the opportunity to inspire others.  Volunteering-giving back-spreading aloha....these random acts of kindness have a ripple effect.  Once you start, you can't stop.  It makes my heart soar when I help someone....and then that person helps someone...and then that someone helps someone...and so on.  It takes a community to help a community. I am so blessed that my community has joined me on my journey.

5. What are your plans for the future?

 I have so many plans for the future. I want to go to college, then to medical school and become a Pediatric Rheumatologist.  I want to help kids that have the same disease that I do. I want to be part of the team that finds a cure for Arthritis.  I want to continue my advocacy and be the "voice" for all who have challenges. I want to be  the President of the Arthritis Foundation. Most of all, I want to continue my philanthropy. I might not be a professional basketball player (even though my name is Michael Jordan), but I am Michael-Logan Jordan, Philanthropist...and that's a pretty good person to be!

Indeed it is, Michael ! 

I'm always proud to support The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards  and always amazed, humbled and inspired by the young volunteers they honor.

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