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State Honoree

Jon Wagner-Holtz

California

Jon Wagner-Holtz, 16, of Mission Viejo High School in Mission Viejo, California, is the founder and CEO of Kids Konnected, a non-profit organization that provides friendship, education, understanding and support for kids who have a parent with cancer. Jon established the organization when he was only 11 years old and desperately searched for support to cope with his mother's cancer diagnosis. "There were no groups where I could talk to other kids who knew what it was like to have a real sick mom," Jon said, so he created his own. Jon secured his first grant in 1993 that funded a 24-hour hot line which he operated from his home. Regular support groups grew from the success of the hot line, and by 1997, Jon incorporated Kids Konnected as a non-profit organization with 18 chapters in 12 states. Jon has raised over $400,000 to support the programs offered by Kids Konnected, which include a summer camp, an Internet website, youth leadership training, grief workshops, and other cancer related services - all offered free of charge. Jon has begun to train a young member of the board of directors to take over as CEO when he leaves for college. "It's real important to continue Kids Konnected as a corporation that is run by kids, for kids," said Jon.