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Only One Choice for Spirit of Humanity Award Winner

Red Cross Finger Lakes - Humanity Award Winner
She is a special young woman who has touched the lives of service members worldwide and has influenced those in our community to help others.

When it came to choosing the winner of this year’s Simmons-Rockwell Spirit of Humanity Award, there really was only one choice.

The Finger Lakes Chapter of the American Red Cross recently presented the 2015 Simmons-Rockwell Spirit of Humanity Award to 11-year-old Sophie Kartzman, of Horseheads. Sophie, a sixth-grade student at Horseheads Intermediate School, was honored for collecting more than 13,000 holiday cards for active service members and veterans through the Red Cross’ “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.

Sophie received the Spirit of Humanity Award at the Red Cross’ Spring Seasonings event at the Corning Museum of Glass. The award is presented annually to a person who meets the following criteria: “Sharing selflessly of her time, personal talents and treasures within her community and beyond, creating an example of benevolence and hope for others to follow.”

“That describes Sophie perfectly,” said Red Cross Major Gift Officer Colleen Kean, who presented the award to Sophie along with Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces volunteer Linda Conway. “She is a special young woman who has touched the lives of service members worldwide and has influenced those in our community to help others.”

To watch videos from Sophie’s award presentation, including videos from military members thanking Sophie, please visit our YouTube page.

The cards Sophie and her network of friends created were distributed to six overseas Armed Forces units, two U.S. Navy ships, the U.S. Navy submarine base in Groton, Conn., and veterans at the Bath Veterans Administration Medical Center in Steuben County. Sophie was part of the Red Cross contingent that delivered the holiday cards at the Bath VA in December.

Sophie showed the veterans more love for Valentine’s Day. On Feb. 13, Sophie and American Red Cross Finger Lakes Chapter volunteer Dick Walters distributed about 400 Valentine’s cards to veterans at Bath. The cards were handmade by Sophie and other students in the Horseheads Central School District, residents at Bethany Nursing Home in Horseheads, and children from Jen’s Day Care in Corning.

“Seeing the veterans smile,” Sophie said at the time, “makes me feel like a million dollars.”

Sophie thought she was attending the Spring Seasonings event as a volunteer and was just about to call her mother to get picked up when her family walked in. In addition to the Red Cross, Sophie was also honored that night by Congressman Tom Reed, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, and the 827th Engineer Company from the Army National Guard in Horseheads.

“Sophie is just amazing. She set a goal for 1,000 (cards), she got 2,000,” Linda Conway told WENY-TV. “She set a goal for 3,000 and she was able to get 5,000 cards. And it just kept increasing more and more until we had 13,000 cards to distribute.”

To watch WENY-TV’s coverage of Sophie’s big night, click here.

Sophie is the daughter of David and Denise Kartzman, of Horseheads. Sophie recently earned a national George Bush Points of Light award for her “Holiday Mail” campaign. Points of Light celebrates people who “inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action to change the world.”

Main photo image: Sophie Kartzman is honored by Congressman Tom Reed (center) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano at the Spring Seasonings event for her work with the American Red Cross’ “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.