A Brooklyn Center teenager was selected to carry the Olympic torch toward Vancouver, British Columbia, this week in recognition of her academic achievements, leadership and volunteer service to community.
Ashlee Kephart, 18, was one of 10 U.S. teens picked by Coca-Cola, an Olympic sponsor, to take part in the 45,000-kilometer torch relay that began last fall and will conclude next month in Vancouver, site of this year's Winter Olympics.
In 2005, Ashlee founded the nonprofit organization Kids for a Better World, which gets young people involved in addressing the needs of communities around the globe. Ahslee has raised more than $100,000, and distributed more than 15,000 bags of personal-care products to the homeless, tens of thousands of pairs of shoes to underprivileged families, 10,000 books to children in hospitals and orphanages, and 4,000 backpacks to victims of disasters.
In 2008, Ashlee was one of five teens honored as Young Adult National Caring Award Winners by the Caring Institute in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit chaired by former Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan.
Ashlee, who's now a Hamline University student, was scheduled to run her leg of the torch relay on Tuesday afternoon in Calgary, Alberta. Like the other teens selected by Coca-Cola, she was nominated for being a champion of positive living in her community.
On Jan. 10, another north metro resident, Michael Erko of Blaine, carried the Olympic torch in Nipigon, Ontario. Erko was selected by his employer, Canadian Pacific, for his volunteer work.
Ashlee Kephart was the subject of a Star Tribune story in April 2008, at the time she was honored by the National Caring Institute. You can read it at www.startribune.com/north.