Louie McGee, a seventh-grader from St. Paul, was chosen from more than 28,000 students across the country to be named one of America’s Top 10 Youth Volunteers.
McGee, who has significant vision loss, received The Prudential Spirit of Community Award for his fundraising work supporting research for retinal eye diseases.
He received a $10,000 award, and will give half to the Maryland-based Foundation Fighting Blindness.
“I was really surprised,” said McGee, given the award at the “very cool” Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
“I got a big chunk of money for Team Louie.”
“Team Louie” is the fundraising team he has organized for the past six years for Twin Cities VisionWalk and which has raised $40,000 for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. The 12-year-old also served as youth chairperson of VisionWalk.
Last year, McGee organized a fundraiser called “Dining in the Dark” at the cafeteria of his school, Highland Catholic School. About 300 students wore masks while eating dinner, giving them a better understanding of life with vision loss.
When he was 5, McGee was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a condition causing loss of central vision. He “reads” by listening to books on tape or downloading them on his iPad and blowing up the print size, said his mother, Annie McGee. He’s on the swim and track teams at his school.
McGee says that volunteering has introduced him to many other people with vision problems, which has been helpful and inspirational. It’s also kept him abreast of the latest research and potential cures. Said McGee: “It gives me hope for a cure.”
The Spirit of Community Awards is sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Said association president Denise Greene-Wilkinson: “These students are fine examples of what is possible when young people roll up their sleeves and commit themselves to helping others.”
Jean Hopfensperger 612 673-4511