The Lycoming County United way held a volunteer appreciation event on Dec. 11 at the Holiday Inn, where many volunteers were recognized for their efforts with helping the United Way this year.
Each year, the United Way and Sun-Gazette hold the "Live United" essay contest for students. This year, 234 students entered their essays for contest, according to David F. Troisi, Sun-Gazette editor.
Troisi, a judge for the competition, also personally reads each essay entry every year.
Winners of the Lycoming United Way essay contest include, from left, WAMS seventh grader Madison Marchese, second place, McCall Middle School sixth grader Ian Plankenhorn, third place, and McCall sixth grader Emily Pittinger, first place.
The students were asked to write essays describing how they have helped someone facing a challenge and how they worked together to achieve positive results.
Sponsors for this year's contest included the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, the Lycoming Mall, Woodlands Bank, Riverside Subs and Pizza, Otto Bookstore, the Community Arts Center and Williamsport Crosscutters.
The winners were:
First place - Emily Pittinger, 11, sixth-grader at C.E. McCall Middle School, Montoursville.
Second place - Madison Faith Marchese, 11, seventh-grader at Williamsport Area Middle School.
Third place - Ian Plankenhorn, 11, a sixth-grader at C.E. McCall Middle School, Montoursville.
Below are the top three essay winners, who were present at the volunteer appreciation event to receive their awards.
By IAN PLANKENHORN
Do you remember when the flood hit Lycoming County? About two years ago, a horrifying flood hit Montoursville. The most serious damage occurred on North Route 87 and downtown Broad Street. Many people lost personal property and some of their homes were destroyed. I helped people through my church, spreading the word of God and helping those in need.
I helped with the flood by shoveling mud out of people's houses and basements. I also helped in the food drive and donating some of my clothes that didn't fit me anymore.
Besides that, I made and delivered sandwiches for the people who didn't have anything that was salvageable or who didn't have any electricity.
One weekend, our church was getting a whole bunch of people together to go out Route 87 to help those people in need, so we loaded up all of the sandwiches and tools in the truck to help those people and their houses get back to normal.
We were working on a house that had some major flooding issues, and in three weeks, with a lot of hard work, we put that house back to its original style.
It always feels good to help someone in need. I always get this warm fuzzy feeling whenever I do something good for someone - even the little things you feel good about.
By MADISON FAITH
In January of 2013, I helped someone special to not only face, but also overcome a challenge and achieve it with positive results. About 11 months ago, my Nonny wasn't feeling too well. She went to the doctor and he said that it was depression.
When she came home and told me, I knew that wasn't right. We are extremely close and I had a feeling that this was worse than depression. Eventually, she went to a different doctor and he said that it was a brain tumor - she needed surgery immediately.
When the surgery was complete, we were delighted that it was a success. But sadly, she couldn't remember how to walk. Over a period of about six months, she began to heal very well, but she still couldn't remember how to walk.
My Mimi, Grandpa Charlie and I would sit with her and encourage her for two hours each day while she was in therapy. She wasn't making any progress when it came to walking, so one day while holding her hand, I whispered to her, "if you walk, we can get out of here." She nodded her head at me and responded quietly, "OK."
I'll never forget that day in June, because it was that day that she stood and slowly learned how to walk again. It was a beautiful sight! Now onto the next challenge ... driving!
By EMILY PITTINGER
A lot of kids with autism can not find their words or stand up for themselves. In kindergarten, I met this kid named Connor. Everyone, including me, noticed that he acted different. Connor was always alone until one day Connor and I worked together to help him find his words.
One day, Connor's mom invited me over to their house. While Connor and I were playing, his mom pulled me aside and gave me a letter explaining that Connor has a disorder called autism. This letter also said that it is normal for Connor to act different.
After Connor's mom read me that note, I knew what I had to do. I had to help Connor fit in. Through the rest of kindergarten, him and I hung out and we pretty much did everything together.
Every day, someone new played with Connor. One day, Connor didn't hang out with me at all, but he was sitting with boys that were in our class. I was so proud of Connor and myself. I helped Connor find his words.
In our society, a lot of autistic people are misunderstood. They always get left out and it is very hard for them to make friends by themselves.
I know how autistic people feel because I met Connor.
Currently, I help other kids understand that it is OK that autistic people act different. They just express themselves in a different way.