Four Westerville residents have been named finalists for Jefferson Awards, which recognize individuals who do extraordinary things in their communities without expecting rewards.

Four Westerville residents have been named finalists for Jefferson Awards, which recognize individuals who do extraordinary things in their communities without expecting rewards.

Doug Krinsky is being recognized for his work as an advocate on behalf of people with autism and their families; Gerald Nieman is being recognized for his work volunteering with children with life-threatening illnesses; Kristen Sellan is being recognized for the second time for her charity, Cuddles from Kristen, which provides handmade blankets to children at Ronald McDonald House; and attorney Caroline Worley is being recognized for her work helping small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The finalists will be honored at a breakfast April 5. The local awards are presented by WBNS-10TV, Nationwide and ThisWeek Community Newspapers.

Doug Krinsky

Inspired by his own autistic son, Doug Krinsky sees himself as the voice of people with autism and their families.

Working through Autism Speaks, the largest national autism advocacy group, Krinsky volunteers at the Ohio Statehouse, talking to legislators about key laws that affect the autism community and helping secure resources for people and families affected by autism.

"My goal in life is to have these kids and adults reach their full potential. If they can't speak for themselves, I want to be their voice," Krinsky said.

He said he got involved in autism advocacy about 12 years ago when he saw the gaps in services and a need for alternatives in education for his son.

"My passion is driven in the autism cause because of my son and knowing hundreds of families and the help they need. Somebody needs to talk for the families, and I'm someone who can do that," Krinsky said. "The majority of them don't have the time to go down (to the Statehouse)."

He also works to raise money for Autism Speaks and last year co-chaired Columbus' Walk Now for Autism Speaks.

"I didn't do all the work. I was one of two co-chairs, and we raised over $1 million in one morning," Krinsky said. "I'm one of many, and I'm happy to be part of this event. It allows the families to come and feel like they're part of the autism community. There are people out there and supporting them."

Krinsky also is involved with many other autism awareness events and fundraisers. The largest is a poker tournament he organizes in Las Vegas each year. Last year, it raised $18,000 for Michael's Team, Krinsky's son's team for Walk Now.

While Krinsky said he's been involved in a lot of important efforts and successes for the autism community in the last decade, there's more work that needs to be done for the cause.

"We've accomplished a lot. We've got a lot more to accomplish," he said. "It's about our cause and bringing awareness to our cause. Let's get to the cause of this and find a cure."

Gerald Nieman

Gerald Nieman began volunteering with actor Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall camps, which cater to children with life-threatening conditions, nine years ago.

Nieman said he was familiar with Newman's work and contacted Victory Junction, a Hole in the Wall camp in North Carolina, about volunteering.

"Especially with it being for children, it really touched my heart. I just called the camp and introduced myself and asked if they ever needed volunteers," Nieman said. "I just got in my car and drove down there."

Nieman said he spends time with the kids as they participate in normal camp activities such as archery, swimming and horseback riding.

"They're for kids who spend most of their times either in hospital beds or doctor's offices, so they wouldn't be able to go to camps if it wasn't for camps like this," He said.

Nieman said his involvement grew when Hole in the Wall announced it was building a new camp, Flying Horse Farms, in Mt. Gilead.

"We were really excited about five years ago when we heard they were going to build a new camp (in Ohio)," Nieman said. "(I) rolled up my sleeves and got actively involved."

He said he and his wife, Jane, were involved in the fundraising and planning for the camp, and they began volunteering at the camp when it opened last year.

When camp is not in session, Nieman said he and his wife spend much of their time passing out information about the camp at public events and fundraising for it.

A car show for the camp that Nieman planned raised more than $29,000 last year, and he planning the event again this year.

Nieman said working with Hole in the Wall camps keeps him thankful for his own children and grandchildren and helps him care for children who aren't as fortunate.

"My wife and I have two healthy children and three healthy grandchildren, and it's just a way of praising God for the health of these children. It's something where if you're not careful, you can just take it for granted," Nieman said. "It's just the luck of the draw that these children are born into this world with life-threatening illnesses. It's just a matter of doing what we can to just help them be normal kids for a week when they come to camp."

Kristen Sellan

Seventeen-year-old Kristen Sellan is a second-time finalist for a Jefferson Award.

Sellan once again is being recognized for her charity, Cuddles from Kristen, which she began when she was 13 years old, after her grandmother was stricken with cancer. Sellan said her grandmother never complained about her illness, but did complain about how cold the hospital was when she was there for treatment.

Sellan made her a no-sew fleece blanket. Remembering how grateful her grandmother was, she began making the blankets and dropping them off at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus.

Through Cuddles from Kristen, Sellan has delivered 370 blankets.

In addition to the blankets she makes, Sellan also hosts blanket-making parties. This week, her theology class at St. Francis DeSales High School held a blanket-making party, and Sellan just hosted her first blanket-making party at the Ronald McDonald House, which she counts as a great success.

"We didn't really have huge expectations because we weren't sure if the families would want to come or if they would be at the hospital. We made 40 blankets, which is more than we ever made," she said.

Sellan said she would like to do more blanket-making parties at the house, and plans to spend more time at Ronald McDonald House building relationships with the families who stay there.

"We met a lot of people by having the party there. We were able to have an actual relationship with a family member who was staying there," she said.

Sellan, a junior in high school, said she knows Cuddles from Kristen will have to take a different form when she heads to college, but she said she's committed to keeping the charity going.

"I definitely want to keep with it, continue it," she said. "I know that it's helping a lot of people, and it just makes me feel better knowing that I've done something good for someone else."

Sellan has created a website for the charity at CuddlesfromKristen.webs.com.

Caroline Worley

Caroline Worley grew up working in her family's small business.

Now an attorney running her own law firm, Worley sees it as her duty to help those who are working to start or grow businesses.

"To me, it's just part of owning a business. To me, it's just a giveback," she said. Worley works with groups such as TechColumbus, the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center, Athena Powerlink and the National Association of Women Business Owners to provide free legal advice to small-business owners.

She also works with local universities, advising students who are looking to start their own businesses, and she gives talks on legal issues facing small businesses.

Worley is modest about the work that she does, but said she's passionate about small businesses.

"I'm not curing cancer or helping with world hunger, but it's just fun for me. I don't really see it as volunteer. I just love small businesses," Worley said.

The advice and guidance provided by the organizations Worley works through is key, she said, because often, small-business owners are so focused that they don't see what they need to do to be successful and grow.

"Sometimes you don't see the big picture when you're working in your business day to day," she said.

Worley said she loves what she does because she gets to work with people who are energized about what they do.

"I go to these places and I come back to work, and I'm rejuvenated. It's just fun to see people who are passionate about their work," Worley said.