Ella Byers, 13, of Shelburne, Vt., a seventh-grader at Mater Christi School, has participated in several activities over the years to help Vermonters facing addiction, poverty and illness. Ella learned about the Lund Family Center when her aunt was helped by the nonprofit, which works to break the cycles of poverty, addiction and abuse. For the past eight years Ella has recruited friends to raise money for Lund by participating in an annual bike ride.
Two years ago, Ella heard about another event that appealed to her: a winter “sleep out” benefiting homeless youth. So she gathered close friends and family members to sleep outside with her on a winter’s night to raise money for Spectrum Youth & Family Services. “I thought it would be a good experience for me to see how some people have to sleep outside in the winter every night,” she explained. “It is very hard to persuade people to sleep outside on a cold winter night, but I usually can find people who will do it to support the cause.” Ella also has volunteered to hand out food and entertain families at an event supporting a Ronald McDonald House, and collected toiletries with her swim team for families staying at a local homeless shelter. “Helping others is one of the most important keys to success in the world,” she said.