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State Honoree

Photo of State Honoree Madeline Stephenson

Madeline Stephenson

Kentucky

Madeline Stephenson, 17, of Burkesville, Ky., a junior at Cumberland County High School, brightens the lives of hospitalized children twice a week when she wheels her toy cart through the halls of a local hospital and allows each child to select a toy to keep. Madeline decided to launch her service project after visiting the sister of a friend who was hospitalized with Type 1 diabetes. "Just walking into her hospital room I could feel her pain," Madeline said. While she was visiting, the girl's grandmother brought a smile to her face by giving her a Jell-O cup. Madeline thought, "What if she had received something that she could have kept and used? Would it have made her stay at the hospital more enjoyable and put her mind at ease after hearing her diagnosis?"

Madeline began brainstorming about ways she could cheer up sick children and came up with the idea of her toy cart, which she calls "Cause for a Smile." She presented her idea to the CEO of Cumberland County Hospital, and then solicited help from the director of the hospital's building and maintenance department in designing and building a cart that would hold toys and games. Madeline purchases toys, games, books, stuffed animals and other items that appeal to children up to age 12. Every Wednesday and Sunday, she loads her cart and rolls it into each pediatric patient's room and lets him or her choose a gift. "Many children in my community live in poverty and don't have the privilege of many toys," she said. "They can bring this toy home with them and cherish it throughout childhood."