Kelsey Norris, 13, of Bonaire, Ga., a sixth-grader at Bonaire Middle School, overcame a challenging start in life to provide more than 1,000 volunteer hours and raise more than $20,000 for a wide variety of causes aiding children and others in difficult situations. Kelsey was less than a year old when she was found in a Russian orphanage, and was later diagnosed with autism. But by the time she was 6, she was visiting schools and early childhood centers to read to kids and share her story with them. Several years later, her volunteering really took off when she began participating in pageants with the platform “special needs means special abilities.”
Since then, Kelsey has won more than 50 pageant titles and devoted over 1,000 hours to community service activities. She has collected more than 1,500 cans and boxes of food to feed students in need on weekends. In addition, she gathered more than 4,500 pounds of dog food for a Humane Society facility. She is currently serving as the local coordinator of a program that provides bags of hygiene and other personal items to displaced children. She also is a “special needs ambassador” and advocate for a group working to expand healthcare access in several rural counties. In addition, Kelsey has raised more than $20,000 for organizations such as the Children’s Miracle Network, Shriners Children’s Hospitals and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.