The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the largest U.S. youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. We are proud to celebrate Nebraska’s two 2020 honorees.
Congratulations to Madeline Hudnall and Sawyer Zeece for being exceptional volunteers in your Nebraska communities! Learn more about their hard work and awesome acts of kindness.
Madeline Hudnall, 17, of Columbus, Nebraska, a senior at Columbus High School, has raised more than $72,000 for childhood cancer research in the 12 years that she’s been hosting an annual lemonade stand. She also co-chaired a project to provide bedding for 33 children in need in her school district, helped clean up debris after a devastating flood, and has been an active participant in other 4‑H service projects. Madeline said she’s been inspired by her parents, teachers, coaches and mentors who do so much to make her town a good place to live. “What I’ve realized through volunteer work is how much of a ripple effect comes from volunteering,” said Madeline. “This ripple can be witnessed by watching people feel loved, supported, inspired and connected.”
When she was 6 years old, Madeline held her first “LemonSmiles Lemonade Stand” in her front yard after a friend was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. She now sells lemonade at three locations for three days at a time, with the help of a partner, family members and her 4‑H club, and with guidance from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF). Madeline has formed relationships with lemonade distributors, solicits stores for cookies and supplies, and secures sponsorships for T‑shirts, caps, signage and materials. Last year alone she raised $17,300 for ALSF. In addition, Madeline was part of a group that applied for and won a $1,000 grant to purchase air mattresses, bedding and pillows for students who don’t have their own beds. As a 4‑H leader, she also volunteered to clean up a local farm after harsh weather last year, and has organized projects at a local homeless shelter, the county fair and a day camp.
Lincoln , Nebraska
Sawyer Zeece, 13, of Lincoln, Nebraska, an eighth-grader at Lux Middle School, volunteered last year at the summer camp of a local children’s museum where she mentored a 6‑year-old boy who is on the autism spectrum. Sawyer, who has always loved children, was looking for a way to occupy her time during the summer and at the same time do something that would make a difference in someone’s life. So when she heard about the museum’s camp, “I couldn’t wait to fill out the application,” she said. Her first day on the job, Sawyer noticed a quote painted on the museum’s wall that would become the cornerstone of her time there: “Making one person smile can change the world – maybe not the whole world, but their world.” By the end of the first day, “I set a goal for myself: to make one kid smile each day,” she said.
Most of Sawyer’s duties at the camp involved working with one child, with whom she developed a close bond. A typical day consisted of playing with the boy. Sometimes he would become overstimulated if the light was too bright or the noise level too high, so Sawyer had to learn techniques for calming him down. During their summer together, Sawyer read a lot about autism and began to develop a better understanding of how to accommodate the child. “There is no better feeling in the world than knowing you had a positive impact on someone’s life,” she said. Sawyer also volunteers for the museum during the school year, assisting with after-school clubs at several elementary schools and providing childcare services during special events.