Bexley News

Stefanie Spielman Humanitarian Awards

Local students honored for service to others

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LORRIE CECIL/THISWEEKNEWS
The 2013 winners of Stefanie Spielman Humanitarian Awards from the Upper Arlington Women's Club are (from left) Nicole Carothers and Abby Godard from Upper Arlingtion High School, Brady Wilson from St. Charles, Nicolette Green from Upper Arlington High School, and Maggie Valachovic from Bishop Watterson.
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By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The five seniors honored by the Upper Arlington Women's Club this year looked like ordinary high school students -- maybe a bit more dressed up than usual -- but in their humanitarian efforts, they surpassed what most students accomplish in four years of high school.

Nicole Carothers, Nicolette Green and Abby Godard from Upper Arlington High School, Maggie Valachovic from Bishop Watterson High School and Brady Wilson from St. Charles Preparatory School received $1,000 Stefanie Spielman Humanitarian Awards May 17 at the Ohio State University Golf Club.

The Women's Club offers five awards each year to high school seniors living in Upper Arlington who plan to attend a college or university.

Club member Cathy Wheaton said this is the ninth year for the awards, which were renamed in honor of Spielman, a founding member of the Women's Club. Students are nominated by teachers and guidance counselors.

Spielman, a mother of four and wife of former OSU and NFL football star Chris Spielman, was 42 when she died of cancer in 2009, after battling the disease five times.

Before she died, she established the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research, raising millions of dollars for research and awareness of the disease.

"These scholarships were near and dear to my sister's heart," said Sue Fitz, Spielman's sister. "Stef embraced this recognition wholeheartedly. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29, she made the difficult decision to go public with the news, in order to create a fund for breast cancer research."

Spielman's mother, Myra Belcher, also attended the breakfast.

"These students embody the true spirit of the humanitarian award," Fitz said. "They have given of themselves far beyond what most students are expected to do."

Carothers founded two extracurricular service clubs, Operation Smile and the Office Club. Operation Smile raises funds for Smile Train, which provides cleft-lip surgery to underprivileged children. She baked cakes for hospice families and organized a 30-hour "famine," an overnight lock-in requiring a 30-hour fast so that students could experience a day in the life of a hungry child. She also volunteered as a coach for the UA Lacrosse Association and for Optimist Basketball.

Her service gave her "an appreciation for my own life and all that I have been given," she said.

"What you do can have a huge impact on someone's life," she said. "I remember helping to serve meals to 6- and 9-year-old boys at MidOhio Foodbank. When you can place a face on childhood hunger, you want to try to help."

She will attend James Madison University in the fall.

Godard was awarded the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award after completing more than 250 service hours in a six-month period. She served on three mission trips to Mexico and one to the Dominican Republic through First Community Church and is managing editor of the high school's Arlingtonian news magazine. After she wrote "Gay in UA," a cover story for the Arlingtonian, she was contacted by a father who said his son was often bullied by other students because of his gay parents, but Godard's story was so powerful that it brought the bullying to a halt.

She said her efforts helped her learn how to work with anyone.

"It taught me to work with many different types of people and helped to really diversify my world," she said.

She will attend George Washington University in the fall.

Green co-created a glee club for students with special needs. She said music therapy has helped the students with communication skills. She served as a peer tutor for students with developmental disabilities, including her brother, who has severe autism. She volunteered with the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, promoting the end of the word "retarded."

She also created teaching aids for the Autism Center. She was a Pelotonia Cancer Research volunteer and directed and acted in the Respect Yourself program, a show for eighth-graders that promotes making good choices in high school.

"I learned everyone is capable of anything," Green said. "If you are patient and you work hard enough, you can really alter people's lives and help make them happier."

She will attend Ohio State University.

Valachovic volunteered at Run the Race Club, a recreation center for inner city children, providing a place to play, get help with homework and eat dinner after school. She collected homecoming dresses to donate to the high school girls at the club who could not afford them. She also started an elementary school-age soccer program at Run the Race, served as a Candy-Striper at Riverside Hospital and served on a Cranks Creek Mission trip.

"I learned how important it is to help others and to put other people before yourself in your daily life," she said.

Wilson co-founded Spare-A-House for Habitat for Humanity, a bowling fundraiser event that raised more than $5,000 in the past three years. He worked at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and served as a counselor at the Muscular Dystrophy Camp. He also volunteers at the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio, honoring his Native American heritage.

Wilson said he learned, "how truly blessed I am."

"I have felt truly blessed and grateful I'm able to utilize my talents to help people who don't have the same opportunities I've been given," he said.

He will attend Wake Forest University.

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