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National Honoree

Photo of National Honoree Ruby Kate Chitsey

Ruby Kate Chitsey

United States of America

Ruby Kate Chitsey, 13, of Harrison, Arkansas, a seventh-grader at Arkansas Virtual Academy, has raised more than $300,000 to grant wishes for over 8,000 nursing home residents across the country who cannot afford day-to-day expenses such as pet food, haircuts or clothes that fit properly. Three years ago, Ruby Kate met Pearl, a nursing home resident who had to give up her beloved dog because she couldn’t afford to feed it. “I learned that most residents at her facility only received $40 a month to take care of extras,” said Ruby Kate. “I really felt like if I didn’t help them, then no one would.” The next time she visited the home, Ruby Kate asked residents: If you had three wishes, what would they be? She thought they would choose fancy vacations or lots of money; instead, “they asked for simple things that most of us have already,” she said.

She interviewed hundreds of residents at five local nursing homes, wrote down the small items they needed, and then went to stores to buy them. As her project expanded to eight homes in four counties, Ruby Kate formed a nonprofit, began raising money through GoFundMe and social media, and recruited school friends to help. She also reached out to nurses in other states to obtain the wish lists of their nursing-home patients, and set up an Amazon wish list to fulfill them. In addition, Ruby Kate has created a “new shoe closet” and a pet food pantry for local seniors, and speaks to community leaders, students, teachers and nursing-home administrators across the country to raise awareness for her cause.