Scholarships Go to Two CT Kids Who Turned from Tragedy to Help Others

From early tragedies, these two Connecticut kids each had ideas to help others and now do so with their nonprofit groups.

Image from "Sami's Scoliosis Story" video on YouTube (also attached to this article)
Image from "Sami's Scoliosis Story" video on YouTube (also attached to this article)
Two Connecticut kids each had an idea to help others, then they put those ideas to good use with nonprofit groups.

Now, Samantha Petersen of South Windsor and Emily Christensen of Manchester have each been awarded $1,000 scholarships by Kohl's stores — two of 200 scholarships awarded nationwide, with each winner getting a chance at a $10,000 scholarship.

Emily Christensen, 11, won her scholarship from Kohl's stores for her part in founding Crayons for Cancer, a project that uses melted-crayon creations to raise money for families of children with cancer.

Samantha Petersen, 16, received her scholarship in recognition of her founding SHIFT Scoliosis, a nonprofit that educates and supports children and their families with spinal conditions.

More about Emily and Crayons for Cancer

According to the Crayons for Cancer website:

"In the fall of 2008, our church, Wethersfield Evangelical Free Church, challenged families to start with a small sum of cash donated by our church, go forth and multiply it, and then donate it to someone or a group in need. [...]

"After a lot of praying for guidance, Shirley, the crossing guard at our school, gave our children a boxful of old crayons.  We didn’t know it at the time, but those crayons later inspired Emily to come up with the idea to melt the crayons down into fun shapes and sell them in order to make money for kids with cancer in honor and memory of her friend TJ who died just before reaching his 4th birthday."

The nonprofit group, headquartered in Manchester, has raised more than $73,000 and has numerous supporters in the Manchester community and elsewhere.

A video about Crayons for Cancer, produced a few years ago, is attached to this article. It's unrelated to the Kohl's award but explains what the nonprofit does. (Here's another video about Crayons for Cancer, and here's another.)

More about Sami and SHIFT Scoliosis

After Sami Peterson began suffering from severe scoliosis, she was given spinal fusion surgery. Here's what she wrote on the Shift Scoliosis website about how that led to her founding a nonprofit group for others who suffer from the disease and for their families:

"From my hospital bed in the ICU, I decided that I wanted to give back to others going through the journey of scoliosis.  Right away I started helping people who had asked me questions through social media, but knew that I wanted to make an even larger impact.

"In March 2013, six months after surgery, I formally started a non-profit group, SHIFT Scoliosis.  My dream is that SHIFT will be able to change the way that scoliosis is looked at, and show the world how beautiful people with scoliosis are.

"I have several ongoing projects: education, awareness and support through social media; awareness products with designs I created; ‘Wrapped with Love’ which sends blankets to scoliosis patients; ‘Snuggles for Scoliosis’ which sends PillowPets to disadvantaged scoliosis patients worldwide; and ‘The Worry Stone Care Project’, a family helping family initiative where each stone bought sends one to an impoverished family. 

"You can learn more about these projects in our ‘projects’ and ‘volunteers’ tabs on the website."

(A video about Sami's struggle and efforts is attached to his article. Here's another — an NBC News report about Sami from 2012.)

Kohl's scholarship

Here's a news release from Kohl's stores about the awards:

Today, the Kohl’s Department Stores’ (NYSE: KSS) Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program honors nearly 200 deserving volunteers with $1,000 scholarships toward higher education.

Two youths from the Hartford-area were chosen from more than 37,000 nominees nationwide for making a positive impact in their local communities.

“Kohl’s is proud to recognize the 182 regional winners nationwide for their dedication to making their communities a better place to live,” said Bevin Bailis, Kohl’s senior vice president, communications and public relations. “We commend these bright volunteers for being inspiring examples for others as they have made a difference in their own communities and touched the lives of others through their efforts.”

Local recipients of $1,000 scholarships are:

Emily Christensen, 11, Manchester, Connecticut   Emily created Crayons for Cancer, a nonprofit  committed to helping ease the financial burdens placed on families whose children are suffering from cancer by selling wax creations made by melting a box of old crayons. The group has raised more than $73,000 and has built partnerships with three children’s hospitals in the United States to provide parking passes, meal tickets and lodging for family members during their child’s hospital stay.

Samantha Petersen, 16, South Windsor, Connecticut After suffering from severe scoliosis that required a spinal fusion surgery, Samantha started SHIFT Scoliosis, an organization that educates and supports children and their families with spinal conditions. Some of the groups’ efforts include giving pillow pets and blankets to children undergoing treatment for the disease.

Winners are chosen based on initiative, leadership, generosity and project benefits and outcome. Each regional-level winner qualifies for one of Kohl’s 10 national scholarships, which will be announced at the end of July.

National winners will each receive a total of $10,000 in scholarships, and Kohl’s will donate $1,000 to a nonprofit organization on each national winner’s behalf. In total, Kohl’s will recognize more than 2,300 young volunteers with nearly $400,000 in scholarships and prizes.  

Since the program began in 2001, Kohl’s has recognized more than 22,000 kids, including the 2014 winners, with more than $4.3 million in scholarships and prizes.

The Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program is part of Kohl’s Cares®, Kohl’s philanthropic program focused on improving the lives of children. For more information on the Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program visit kohlskids.com.


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