May 08, 2017

Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer saw a need shortly after she had complications from open-heart surgery when she was 5 years old. She has been working ever since to fill it.

Lorelei, now 11, built a volunteer network to deliver child-size cardiac compression pillows, which help children recover from open-heart surgery, around the world. So far, her organization has delivered more than 12,000 of them.
She is one of 10 middle and high school students named the top Lorelei McIntyre-Breweryouth volunteers of the year at Prudential’s 22nd annual Spirit of Community Awards today in Washington, D.C. The ceremony was part of a four-day event, where the top two youth volunteers from each state and the District of Columbia came to the nation’s capital to be recognized for their community service. Each state honoree was personally congratulated by 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps at a dinner reception and ceremony Sunday at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

“Congratulations to all the honorees for the tremendous caring and commitment you’ve demonstrated in serving your communities and helping make the world a better place,” Phelps told the honorees at Sunday’s event. “Thank you for all that you do to keep up with the great work, as you truly are making a difference.”

Lorelei, a sixth-grader from Duncannon, Pa., was born without a left ventricle in her heart. After her lungs collapsed following her third open-heart surgery, she used her great-grandfather’s cardiac compression pillow. It was too large, so she learned to sew and started making one pillow a day for other children who needed them. As word spread about her effort, people started to request pillows and offered to make them. To coordinate the work of her far-flung network of volunteers, she worked with a seamstress to create a pattern and consulted with a medical team at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to learn how to sterilize them and package them safely. She’s sent pillows to places including Ireland, China and South Africa, and raised more than $25,000 to support children’s cardiac care.

"I’m missing half a heart, but that won’t stop me," Lorelei said.

The 102 state honorees each received $1,000, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. The 10 top honorees each received an additional $5,000, engraved gold medallions, crystal trophies for their schools or nominating organizations and $5,000 grants from the Prudential Foundation for the charities of their choice.

The other national winners were:

Amal Bhatnagar of Duluth, Ga.; Ariana DeMattei of Center Moriches, N.Y.; Sarah (Katie) Eder of Shorewood, Wis.; Bradley Ferguson of Northfield, N.J.; Riley Callen of Pawlet, Vt., Harmonie Frederick of Columbia, S.C.; Kelsey Norris of Bonaire, Ga.; Kenan Pala of San Diego, Calif.; and Meghana Reddy of La Mesa, Calif.

Following the success of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in the U.S., the program was introduced in Japan in 1997, South Korea in 1999, Taiwan in 2000, Ireland in 2006, India in 2010, China in 2013 and Brazil in 2015. 

To learn more about the program and this year’s honorees, visit the Spirit of Community website or email Harold Banks

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