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Teens Recognized for Outstanding Volunteer Service

Kailey Ready, Ashlee Smith and Saajan Bhakta have one thing in common—a kind heart. That compassion has won them a state-wide Prudential Spirit of Community Award. It has also led them to the American Red Cross.

Saajan Bhakta

On a trip to India, high school senior Saajan Bhakta saw an impoverished child suffering from hunger and a mother unable to improve the situation. Heartbroken, Bhakta co-founded PovSolve, through which he has distributed 500 blankets and sponsored a feeding session for 700 in India, and helped feed hundreds in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas.

Bhakta is also a Red Cross volunteer with the Central Plains Blood Region; he started when he was 8. “I am beyond passionate about giving the gift of life,” he says. The day he turned 16 and was eligible, he donated blood. “Just the feeling of giving someone another chance at life makes my heart smile.” Bhakta has donated nine pints of blood.

Bhakta’s service has propelled him to membership on the National Youth Council.

At 17, Red Cross volunteer Saajan Bhakta has already donated nine units of blood. Photo credit: Courtesy of Saajan Bhakta.

Kailey Reedy

Eighth grader Kailey Ready, a resident of Stringer, Mississippi, has made many trips to the local hospital to visit her little sister. On one trip she saw a woman hand out caps to joyful children excited to cover their bare heads—but there weren’t enough caps to go around. Since then her Cute Caps for Chemo Kids has collected more than 200 hats for children undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Ready has been a Red Cross volunteer for nearly two years. A school teacher took her to her first Red Cross meeting, where, in her words, “I got to meet and work with lots of other teens that enjoyed volunteering as much as I did.” Ready has contributed nearly 90 hours to the East Central Mississippi Chapter. She says it was her involvement with the Red Cross that inspired her to start her own organization.

Ashlee Smith

When Smith was five, her family’s home burned to the ground. Knowing just how children feel after a disaster, she started Ashlee’s Toy Closet. Now a seventh grader living in Sparks, Nevada, Smith has collected and distributed more than 175,000 toys to children who have lost their belongings in home fires and natural disasters, or whose lives are such that they would not receive birthday and holiday presents.

Ashlee works along side the Red Cross during large and small scale disasters in Northern Nevada, ready to jump in with toys or books for kids. “Seeing the smiles on children’s faces and knowing that I am helping them to be happy again is awesome,” she says. A couple of years ago, the Northern Nevada Chapter recognized her contributions with a Real Hero Award.

Become a Red Cross Youth Volunteer

Tens of thousands of Red Cross volunteers are age 18 and under. Many chapters sponsor school clubs and youth councils. Contact your local Red Cross to learn about opportunities for young volunteers in your community.