Collecting books earns teen top volunteer honor

Eagle project continues to reap benefits for East senior

Wauwatosa East High School senior Kyle Manske collected more than 7,000 new and gently used children's books for patients at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, and as a result, has been named one of two of Wisconsin's top youth volunteers for 2010 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

The award gets Manske $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in May, where he'll join top honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for several days of national recognition events. There, 10 state winners will be named America's top youth volunteers for 2010.

Inspired by his past

Manske's act of kindness was inspired by the intensive speech and language therapy he received at the hospital for six years, he told Wauwatosa NOW last year. During that time, he was disappointed to find that the book carts in the outpatient clinics often were depleted. Since the hospital helped him overcome so many obstacles, Manske said, he wanted to help other children in similar situations.

With the initial goal of collecting 1,000 books, Manske used his Eagle Scout project to set up collection boxes at three Milwaukee-area churches and spoke during five church services to appeal for book donations. Then he obtained permission to set up collection boxes at a local school and recruited more than 50 volunteers to distribute red plastic donation bags to more than 800 homes near the school.

Manske emptied his collection boxes twice a week and supervised the sorting and boxing of the books. He ended up delivering more than 7,000 books to the hospital. In fact, there were so many books, the hospital had to acquire more book carts to hold them. There were so many, some were put into storage for future needs.

5,000 nominated

The Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, is in its 15th year of honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.

All public and private middle and high schools in the country, as well as several community and service organizations, were eligible to select a student for a local Spirit of Community Award in November. Nearly 5,000 local honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected state honorees and distinguished finalists based on criteria such as personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.

- Isral DeBruin