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National Honoree

Joey Rizzolo

New Jersey

Joey Rizzolo, 13, of Paramus, N.J., a seventh-grader at East Brook Middle School, organized a "Freedom Walk" in his town last September that drew more than 450 local residents to join in remembering the lives lost on 9/11 and thanking first responders, U.S. service members and veterans. Joey had been involved for several years in a program that sends "goody bags" to servicemen and women. When he heard about plans for a Freedom Walk in Washington, D.C., to honor 9/11 victims, he decided that one should take place in his town, too. "My town suffered great losses on September 11," explained Joey. "Even though six years have passed, the hurt still lingers."

After obtaining the approval of town and school officials, Joey recruited a faculty sponsor and student volunteers, and formed a committee to help him plan a school assembly, make presentations to other schools and community groups, find a location for the event and promote it. Joey and his committee also planned the program, rented tents and other equipment, arranged for food and refreshments, and raised more than $7,000 to defray costs. "It was an emotional and uplifting experience," said Joey. "Over 450 people gathered together to remember, reflect and renew their commitment to freedom and the values that make America strong."