WASHINGTON, DC – An 11 year old Duncannon, Perry County girl, was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2017 today by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program’s 22nd annual national award ceremony at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Selected from a field of more than 31,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer earned the title of National Honoree, along with a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.
Lorelei and 16 year old Amanda Yang from Montgomery County were named Pennsylvania’s top youth volunteers in February, and were officially recognized Sunday night at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History along with the top two youth volunteers in each other state and the District of Columbia. At that event, each of the 102 State Honorees for 2017 received $1,000 awards as well as personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. The honorees each also received engraved silver medallions and all-expense-paid trips with a parent to Washington, D.C., for this week’s recognition events.
Lorelei, a sixth-grader at The Cove School, built a volunteer network that has provided more than 12,000 special pillows for children around the world undergoing heart surgery. Lorelei was born without a left ventricle in her heart and has endured 26 medical procedures. After Lorelei’s third open heart surgery, her lungs filled with fluid and collapsed. She was given a “compression heart pillow” to help manage pain and express fluids, but the pillow was adult-size, and much too big for Lorelei. She decided that kids like her needed kid-size pillows. “I knew what it was like to go through the pain of open heart surgery. I wanted to come up with a way to make it easier for other kids,” said Lorelei.
Lorelei learned to sew, bought materials with her own money, and began making one pediatric compression heart pillow per day. As word got out, people started contacting her to request pillows or offer to help make them. To coordinate the work of volunteers both near and far, Lorelei worked with a seamstress to create a pattern, and consulted with a medical team at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia about how to sterilize the pillows and package them safely. Lorelei has sent her pillows to young heart patients as far away as Ireland, China and South Africa. She also has raised more than $25,000 to support cardiac care for children. “I’m missing half a heart, but that won’t stop me,” she said.