From the community

Montana and Maine youths win national award for heroic service activity

Posted Dec. 19, 2013, at 4:20 p.m.

 Josiah Utsch, 13, of Bozeman, Mont., and Ridgely Kelly, 12, of Bremen, Maine, have been named national winners of the 2013 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates twenty-five inspiring, public-spirited young people from all across America who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. The top 10 to 15 winners each receive a $5,000 cash award to support their service work or higher education.

 Josiah and Ridgely founded Save the Nautilus to raise awareness of the plight of the nautilus, one of the Earth’s oldest creatures. The two friends have raised more than $11,000 to support nautilus research and are working to get the animal listed as an endangered species. The boys, both animal lovers and long-time fans of the 500 million-year-old nautilus, launched their campaign two years ago after reading an article about overfishing of the animal, whose shell is often used to make jewelry. As Josiah began searching the Internet for groups working to protect the nautilus, he learned of Dr. Peter Ward, a research scientist at the University of Washington with a passion for saving the ancient animal.

 Josiah emailed Dr. Ward and was delighted to receive an almost immediate reply. The scientist confirmed that there was no charity working to protect the nautilus and that someone really needed to start one. “So that was exactly what I did,” says Josiah, and he asked his best friend Ridgely to join his cause. The boys created a website and Ridgely drew a picture of the nautilus, which they put on t-shirts and note cards to sell. Eight months later, the boys had raised $9,000. They flew across the country and presented the money to Dr. Ward to help fund expensive underwater cameras needed to document the nautilus. The boys have since traveled with Dr. Ward to Samoa to search for and photograph the animal. “I want to inspire other kids to protect the animals and things they love,” says Josiah. “If you notice there’s something wrong in the world, it’s your job to fix it,” adds Ridgely.

 The Barron Prize was founded in 2001 by author T.A. Barron and was named for his mother, Gloria Barron. Each year’s twenty-five Barron Prize honorees are as diverse as their service projects. They are female and male, urban and rural, and from many races and backgrounds. Half of the honorees have focused on helping their communities and fellow human beings; half have focused on protecting the environment.

 “Nothing is more inspiring than stories about heroic people who have truly made a difference to the world,” says Barron. “And we need our heroes today more than ever. Not celebrities, but heroes – people whose character can inspire us all. That is the purpose of the Gloria Barron Prize: to shine the spotlight on these amazing young people so that their stories will inspire others.”

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