Kaylee Graham receiving national award from Forest Whitaker

I cannot help myself

I have to brag a little… 

If you know me, you know that my nine grandchildren are my greatest source of fun and pride. My license plate frame reads: “Happiness is Grandchildren.” I try not to brag (ok, one look at my Facebook page and you’ll know that’s a lie), but my grandchildren make it tough to restrain. When I saw The Ford Family Foundation featured my granddaughter, Kaylee’s, national award acceptance, on its website and I had to share it on ours.


Kaylee Graham poses for Prudential Award ad with fellow honoree

A 14-year-old leads the way

Kaylee Graham steps up to coordinate garage sales, volunteers and more 

Kaylee Graham, a student from Florence, recently received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for her work in creating a volunteer day to benefit the Florence area. The award proclamation summed up her efforts:

Ten young Americans were selected in the 2014 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program for national recognition based on their outstanding achievements in community service.

Kaylee Graham's Power of Florence covered in Siuslaw NewsKaylee Graham, 14, of Florence, an eighth-grader at Siuslaw Middle School, initiated an annual citywide day of service in her town that has motivated more than 3,000 residents to work on community improvement projects, raise money for charity, donate food and take part in other volunteer activities over the past three years.

Kaylee grew up volunteering with her family, but when she was 10, she wanted to do something on her own. So she held a garage sale and raised almost $2,000 to stuff 150 backpacks with blankets, toys and other items for children in foster care. “The feeling I had after completing my own successful project was like nothing I have experienced before,” said Kaylee. “I wanted to share that feeling with others.”

She told her mother she wanted to host a weeklong volunteer camp at her house. Her mother said that was too much, but if it was just one day, Kaylee could invite as many people as she wanted. So Kaylee decided to invite her entire community. She presented her idea to the city council, which eventually proclaimed the third Saturday in July as the Power of Florence Day.”

To prepare for the event each year, Kaylee issues press releases, publishes information on her website and Facebook pages, makes videos, shows up at community events, and gives speeches to encourage churches, civic groups and nonprofit organizations to participate. ….  To date, Power of Florence Day has sparked nearly 40 service projects, raised more than $25,000 for community causes, and collected over 7,500 pounds of food for a food bank and the Humane Society. “I learned the size of a person doesn’t truly matter,” said Kaylee. “It’s the size of their heart that does.” 

Brainchild of Boy Grows Big

Kaylee couldn’t help but grow up inspired to help her community. Her older brother and my first grandchild, Taylor, won the same national award for the Read for the Need program he started when he was only six-years-old as a way to help feed the hungry in his community. In addition to winning his Prudential award, he was bestowed the Shining World Compassion Award from the Supreme Master Ching Hai Association, was one of ten Kohl’s Kids Who Care National Scholarship Winners in 2007, was featured on and NBC’s Making a Difference. 


Both of these kids have seemed more comfortable speaking publicly and giving media interviews than many I’ve come across over the years. I can’t even take the credit. They’ve far out done me in awards and recognition, and deservedly so.

There’s more, but I’ll hold back. Feel free see my Facebook page for a continuous supply of stories and pictures of my grandchildren and to share yours with me.

Kaylee Graham goes to DC