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Port Orchard's Kaylee Walter wins national award
A Port Orchard teenager was named the national winner for the third annual Lovin’ Award, which recognizes young individuals who embody strength in character, leadership and compassion for those with differences.
Kaylee Walter, 17, was announced as the national winner on June 3 in Seattle by Lovin’ Scoopful, a premium ice cream company founded by Maria Shriver, Tim Shriver and partners to benefit nonprofits that support those with intellectual challenges.
The South Kitsap High School junior was nominated for her involvement in the movement for the past six years, as well as for her work with the Washington State Youth Activation Committee for Special Olympics and Project UNIFY.
“I was very surprised I won,” Kaylee said.
Kaylee said she read about last year’s national winner and how much she done.
“I really wasn’t expecting to be the national winner this year,” she said.
She first found out she was a finalist for the award about a month ago, but Kaylee doesn’t know the person who nominated her — a fellow Special Olympics volunteer.
“The person they said who nominated me in the first email I received about the award, was someone I didn’t know.”
Kaylee said he was told he won the award on May 31 — the Friday while on her way the Special Olympics at Joint Fort Lewis McCord.
Much of Kaylee’s inspiration comes from her 15-year-old brother, Joseph, who has Down syndrome.
“I started getting involved in Special Olympic when Joseph starting competing as an athlete,” she said.
In addition to her existing commitments with Special Olympics, Kaylee is working toward becoming a certified coach.
“I just certified to coach track and I’m working on being certified in other sports,” she said.
After graduation, she hopes to attend the University of Washington to become a physical therapist for children with disabilities.
The annual award recognizes young visionaries from around the country who help empower the human spirit through involvement in programs that foster respect, inclusion and a true personal connection for people with differences.
One national winner and four regional winners from around the country were selected from students ages 8 to 18 for their involvement with Special Olympics and other organizations that are designed to create more accepting communities.
“Each year, we are amazed by the caliber of young people who are nominated for the Lovin’ Award,” Maria Shriver said. “These youth leaders have learned that they can use their own ideas, influence and initiative to make a tremendous impact in their communities and we are proud to recognize their extraordinary work.”
Tim Shriver said the winners are tremendous examples of what it takes to be a leader in their schools, communities and social circles.
“We’re pleased to honor them for their outstanding efforts to promote acceptance and tolerance and paving the way for others to follow in their footsteps,” added Tim Shriver.
Kaylee will receive an engraved plaque, certificates for a one-year supply of Lovin’ Scoopful ice cream, a $100 gift card, a feature on the Lovin’ Scoopful blog, Facebook and Twitter pages, a letter of commendation from Maria Shriver, the opportunity to compose multiple blog postings about her chosen nonprofit organization and a $500 donation for her chosen non-profit organization.
The winner was selected by a panel of judges including the Shrivers for exemplifying characteristics that promote human rights, inclusion, equality and leadership through education.
Launched in 2008, Lovin’ Scoopful’s mission is to create as many smiles as possible. The company donates 25 percent of its post-tax profits ($50,000 minimum annually) to Special Olympics.