The Harkins Community Memorial Foundation presented its annual Outstanding Youth Awards to five recipients and an honorable mention June 20 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Rockford. Nominees for the award included India Flannigan, Jasmyn Mora, Aziz Milla, Diamond Verner, Nicholas Beach and honorable mention Masen Marks.
The Harkins Community Memorial Fund was established in 2004 by Marva Brown, grandmother of James Lesley Harkins. On a hot summer day in 1996, 7-year-old James lost his life in a tragic drowning, leaving Marva and her family forced into a world of intense emotion and grief over the loss of James. As months passed during this difficult time, Marva found the strength to move forward, transcending her place in this world to help accomplish meaningful things as a legacy to her grandson.
In an effort to help ease the suffering of other families facing the death of a child, and with her family by her side, Marva established the Harkins Community Memorial Fund. The goal of the fund is to help families with limited resources with information, financial assistance and emotional support in a time of crisis. Many of the families who come forward to request assistance would not have been able to provide for a proper burial for their beloved child without this type of support. The funds have been used to purchase headstones and pay for cemetery fees, meeting the immediate need, and enabling the funeral to take place. For more than 10 years, the fund has assisted the families of 50 children, and has compassionately supported countless others in their time of need.
In 2008, on the anniversary that James Lesley Harkins would have been entering college, an event was created to commemorate this time by recognizing young people whose extraordinary efforts have made a difference and provided positive examples for their generation. Nominations are received on behalf of students who are between the ages of 15-18 and have made outstanding contributions to their church or community in the areas of social action and positive change. The young nominees and honorable mention are recognized with a plaque and $200 gift card, a refurbished computer system, and other special gifts. One nominee is selected as the most outstanding overall winner, and will receive a $500 gift card, a new laptop computer and a gift bag.
From the June 25-July 1, 2014, issue