KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This weekend a few dozen awesome teenagers and young children will be in Washington, D.C., to be honored for their amazing good deeds. Just two from each state are chosen each year to receive the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, said to be the nation’s highest honor for young people who do community service and philanthropy. A Northland boy is the only state honoree from the Kansas City region for 2015 and he’s the FOX 4 young achiever of the week.
There’s not much Blake Harris enjoys more than sitting down at a full drum set and pounding away – just creating rhythms out of his own mind and heart for the music. Blake’s an accomplished musician already as an eighth grader on both percussion and guitar and he just earned a spot on the Jazz Band at Park Hill High School for next year. He’s also auditioning for high level metro area youth orchestras and ensembles.
“Happiness,” said Blake, about what music brings him. “I like accomplishing things. And when you play a piece of music, at first it could be frustrating but then the feeling of finishing it is lovely.”
The same goes for the accomplishment of creating and finishing charity and community service projects because if there’s anything that makes Blake happier than playing music it’s helping people. Working with his mom and little sister – Blake’s been preparing bags of personal care items and snacks that he hands out to people who are homeless in downtown Kansas City to give them a lift and, perhaps, to encourage them to pass the kindness forward.
“Hopefully this will inspire them to do something for somebody else,” said Blake.
For doing many good works like this, Blake’s been selected as the Missouri State Honoree in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards that go to young people who do voluntary community service. Many of the young recipients of the Prudential Spirit of Community award seem to go very big on one thing. They devote all of their energy, all their efforts on a single worthy cause or major charity project. Blake marches to a very different drumbeat on that.
“Blake is always a go-getter,” said Sara Kincheloe, Blake’s math and homebase teacher at Congress Middle School. The past two years Kincheloe has marveled at Blake’s dynamic growth as a doer of spontaneous good deeds that touch lives directly -- reading Dr. Seuss to pre-school kids and children with autism, shoveling snow and doing yard work for sick or elderly people, promoting kindness, working at Harvesters Community Food Network, doing fund raising walks and runs, providing food for a family at Thanksgiving, gathering items for Christmas gift baskets, and much more.
“So these are the kinds of things he does to make sure other people are happy,” said Kincheloe. “He does small things for lots of people because he wants to make differences in lots of people’s lives. And the thing I love the most about him is that he doesn’t want the recognition.”
Even so, Blake is getting major recognition now which he hopes will inspire others to follow his lead and motivate him to do even more to help people in big and small ways.
“The more I see the world,” said Blake, “I’ll understand that the need is higher than I actually originally thought.”
So he’ll keep creating projects to meet the need, out of his own mind and heart for helping. A true giving spirit.
Blake gets a $1,000 prize as a Prudential Spirit Award state honoree and while he’s in Washington, D.C., he could be named one of the ten national honorees which includes a $5,000 prize.
Meantime, our metro area also has three other young people who were named Distinguished Finalists for the Prudential recognition – 18-year-old Jordan Richardson of Platte City, Mo., 18-year-old Paul Freeman of Mission Hills, Kan., and 18-year-old Nghia Jones of Overland Park, Kan.
Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.