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Waipahu Teenager Wins Volunteer Honors For Raising $100,000

Helping those in need is a reward unto itself, but volunteer service has been doubly rewarding for two West Oahu students.

Jackson Button, a 13-year-old student at Hawaii Technology Academy in Waipahu, was one of two students selected for this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community Award. He shares the honor with a Big Island student.

The national honor acknowledges youths for outstanding acts of volunteerism.

The eighth-grader helped raise nearly $100,000 for projects that aid children in need throughout the world.

Button’s taste for fundraising was born when his mother developed breast cancer. The family discovered what it feels like to be in need of help, but also how wonderful it was when community members they didn’t even know came forward to offer that help.

The experience encouraged him to come up with creative ways to raise money to help others with breast cancer, as well as to help needy children.

First he took on the writing and publishing of a cookbook. Then he began selling baked goods and organic vegetables from the family garden. There were also lemonade stands and garage sales, as well as requests for donations.

Funds raised have provided scholarships to children who lost a parent to cancer, supplies for a family shelter, a solar heater for an orphanage in Mexico, school supplies and backpacks for under-privileged children right here in Hawaii, a therapeutic riding horse for disabled children, and a van to take Ugandan orphans with AIDS to medical appointments – as well as four acres of land to grow food and build a new orphanage for the Ugandan children.

Button’s award comes with $1,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C., in May, where he will join honorees from other states for national recognition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Prudential honorees also will tour the capital’s landmarks.

The program also lauds students who have done a great deal of community service as Distinguished Finalists.

Among those finalists is Lanakila Baptist High School senior Jessica Sonson. The Ewa Beach resident is president of her school’s National Honor Society and president of the student council. She also volunteers at Pali Momi Medical Center, assisting staff and patients with basic needs. Sonson is being recognized with a bronze medallion.

Button and Sonson were chosen by a panel of judges from a pool of more than 5,000 local honorees. The decision was based on initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.