Cathy Fox, a second-grade teacher at North Webster Elementary School, had the look of shock when she was announced the winner of the Education Award presented Thursday at the 17th annual Age of Excellence Awards, held in South Bend. The awards program is an annual event recognizing individuals who support loved ones and their community through daily acts of kindness, compassion and selflessness.
The Education Award is one of nine awards presented each year. The award is given to a student, class, teacher or school administrator who has displayed an understanding of the value of older adults.
Fox was nominated because of her history of teaching her second-graders about volunteering and supporting the elderly. For the past three years she has invited a representative from REAL Services to share experiences and insights about aging and serving older adults.
The students, at a young age, have learned how vital it is to help others. Helping the students to understand, Fox has the class talk about how great it feels to get a drawing from a best friend, or how they like to give something special to Mom for the refrigerator.
After discussion about doing good deeds, the students create arts and crafts projects in the form of cards, stuffed paper turkeys, bookmarks for the seniors at the North Webster Nutrition Site. One year, a bus trip was arranged to take students to a nutrition site where they shared a noon meal and each interviewed a senior.
Terry McFadden, master of ceremonies for the event, noted studies have shown children who learn to volunteer and share, grow up to follow a path of volunteering in adulthood. “Mrs. Fox has trained hundreds of volunteer second-graders to volunteer well into the future,” he said.
Other awards that day were presented to Kimble Volunteer of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Hoosier Lifetime Award, Volunteer Group of the Year, Business of the Year, Professional of the Year, Caregiver of the Year for an Older Adult and Caregiver of the Year for the disabled.
More than 700 people attended the event in which the keynote speaker was Amy Grant, six time Grammy award winning recording artist, who took on the role of caregiver in 2009 for her mother, who died last year, and is now focusing on caring for her father.
REAL Services is a part of the Area 2 Agency on Aging, serving residents of Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaPorte, Marshall and St. Joseph counties. There were 119 individuals, groups and businesses nominated and honored.