12 Young People Who Are Making Southern Indiana (And the World) A Better Place
Times are a little tough lately, but here at YR we want to continue to spread good news about the young people in our community. Below are stories about students in southern Indiana who have impacted Evansville – and beyond – in great ways.
These students are determined to promote kindness, environmentalism, nutrition and more. They work to battle homelessness, poverty, and create access to health care options for those in need. Read on and learn more about their compassion and determination to make Evansville (and the world) a better place!
Mason Myers (New Tech, Sophomore)
Uses music to spread joy at Hope Dot Com’s Love Feast, a monthly event for the homeless and impoverished in Evansville
When it comes to making an impact in the lives of others, 15-year-old Mason Myers selflessly gives his time, energy – and once a pair of his own shoes – to those in need.
One service project Mason feels more passionately about is his work with Hope Dot Com’s Love Feast, a monthly event for the homeless and impoverished in Evansville. Around 150 attendees are served a hot meal and are able to meet with local community partners who volunteer their time to assist with medical and dental health needs.
During Love Feast, Mason plays a percussion instrument called a jymbey (box for drumming) for those gathering for the meal. Interestedly enough, the instrument is closely related to the djembe, which comes from the saying “Anke djé, anke bé” which translates to “everyone gather together in peace.”
“One of my favorite parts of Love Feast is playing music. I think playing music helps people to relax,” said Mason, who also helps with setting up the event and passing out flyers at local shelters to promote Love Feast.
Ethan Eichholz & Blake Miley (North Junior High)
Created “Kindness Bags” to distribute to area homeless
On most weekday mornings, fifth graders Ethan Eichholz and Blake Miley can be found carefully raising the flag at Oak Hill Elementary School, where they are both flag leaders.
“Service and leadership are really important to me. When I was little, I noticed problems in the world and wanted to fix them, especially with homelessness,” said Ethan. “The Kindness Bag idea came about when we were asked to think of ideas that could help change the world, and Blake mentioned the idea of giving to the homeless.”
The boys worked together to come up with a list of items that homeless people in the community might need and got the word out to students during a morning meeting. They created an organized list, asking each group of students to each bring certain items. When items were turned in, they helped collect them from homerooms and then eventually helped sort and put the items into bags.
They originally set a goal of collecting enough items to create 25 Kindness Bags, but in the end collected enough items to make 100 Kindness Bags, which were donated to the United Caring Shelter in April.
Josh Shull (Freshman, Concordia University Wisconsin)
Director of the Lutheran Developmental Basketball League (LDL) for K-4th graders
“Josh’s personality and work ethic are inspirational. Being able to participate and give back to his community in all the activities he participates in, while maintaining a 4.0 GPA makes him a great role model to underclassmen. He also takes personal interest in everyone he works with in his leadership roles,” Beal said.
Josh also leads as Director of the Lutheran Developmental Basketball League (LDL) for K-4th graders.
“I wanted to help give back to a program that I remember being a part of. In my position, I was able to structure the details of the league so the kids could learn the fundamentals of basketball and most importantly have fun. I love seeing smiles on the kid’s faces,” Josh said.
When asked who he looks up to, Josh said his father has shown him what it means to be a leader and how to care for the people in his life.
“I look up to my dad immensely. He has exhibited what it means to be a husband, father, and overall man. His guidance and love have made me who I am today,” Josh said.
“Both in sports and in the classroom, Josh has been a pinnacle example to others in speech and conduct,” Josh’s teacher and soccer coach Michael Schass said. “We will truly miss his leadership when he graduates, but are extremely thankful for the legacy he left for others to follow.”
Garrett DiDomizio (Freshman, University of Southern Indiana)
Volunteers with Tri-State Alliance’s AIDS Holiday Project and is an adult leader for Boy Scouts after earning the ranks of Eagle Scout during his own time scouting
“Boy Scouts has taught me a lot about leadership in being able to lead other members of my troop and teach them new things. Scouting emphasizes service, and being a Scout helped me get more involved in my community and hooked up with different organizations through which I could serve. I have gotten very involved helping at my church and serving others through programs there also.”
Garrett’s involvement with Boy Scouts eventually led him to the completion of his Eagle Scout project: building a shed for Christian Fellowship Church, which was needed for the preschool there. Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in scouting. Since its inception in 1911, only four percent of Scouts have earned this rank.
“We were so proud to see Garrett complete his Eagle Scout project. It was a huge undertaking, and he worked so hard throughout the planning and construction of it,” Kathryn said.
Garrett has also volunteered extensively with the Tri-State Alliance’s AIDS Holiday Project.
“The program helps brighten the holidays for families who are dealing with the trauma that comes when a family member that has AIDS, so I found it to be a very worthy cause. Helping with the AIDS Holiday Project Celebrity Dinner is particularly memorable because in doing so I have been able to interact with prominent members of our community, as well as have fun helping with the auctions that happen as part of the event. This memory is one of my favorites because it has been something I have done from a young age.”
Mallory Weber (Senior, Mater Dei High School)
Active in Mater Dei’s Dance Marathon for Riley Children’s Hospital, and volunteers countless hours locally at Mission Evansville, Dream Center, Boys & Girls Club
“My faith encourages me to stay involved with service because I think you have to give God’s love to people, and helping others is one of the best ways to do that. At Mission Evansville we do a variety of things, such as go to the Boys and Girls Club or even pull weeds at Seton Harvest. From these programs I’ve learned so much about how we can do little things to show God’s love and help others,” she continued.
Described by her peers as reliable, caring, and hard-working, Mallory also devotes her time in school to serving others, as well. Mallory is a homeroom representative at Mater Dei. She keeps her homeroom informed about the different events going on in school, and takes on task such as collecting money and food, finding volunteers to sign up for school activities, and attending Student Council meetings every Wednesday morning at 6:50 a.m.
“Mallory is the kindest, most generous, selfless person I know. She is a friend to everyone. I have never seen her put anyone down by negative words or actions, and she offers her time to volunteer whenever she can,” said her friend, Mary Eppler.
Jack Watson (Senior, Signature School)
Co-leads Signature School’s Heart 2 Haiti program, which supports the entrepreneurial endeavors of those in third world countries
“I admire Jack for countless reasons,” said Mariel Cox, Jack’s friend. “At the top of the list is how Jack interacts with others. He is one of the most friendly, personable people I know. He genuinely cares about the people around him, and has a profuse involvement in service activities. I feel that Jack has made a significant change in our community, which is something incredibly unique for someone of his age.”
At the suggestion of a faculty member, Mariel and Jack started to co-lead their school’s Heart 2 Haiti program, which supports the entrepreneurial endeavors of those in third world countries.
“The idea for the project as a whole stems from seeing the country of Haiti in its economic conflict and wanting to help the Haitian people rise out of this problem. The organization aims to innovate self-sustaining business opportunities in Haiti so that the people will have the opportunity to continue the economic success they find,” explained Jack.
When a group of artists in Haiti demonstrated a need for cut magazine pages, which they wanted to use to create beaded bracelets, Jack helped organize several events in which Signature students came and cut donated National Geographic magazines. In the end, Jack and Mariel were able to send over 80 pounds of cut magazines to the artists, which will be used to create jewelry that can be sold.
Abby Regacho (Senior, Memorial High School)
Co-founded Grandfriends, a service-oriented club that provides social opportunities for the elderly
When 18-year old Abby Regacho moved to the United States five years ago from the Philippines, she quickly noticed the stark differences between life in the two countries.
“Going into high school, I was shocked how many different clubs and activities they offered. I never had as many opportunities in my schools in the Philippines,” said Abby. “In the Philippines, I witnessed so many disasters and so many people in need, but I never thought I could do much to help, because I was just a kid. I was already lucky to not be heavily affected by the issues there, and got even luckier to live the American dream here.”
Abby said noticing the contrast between her opportunities in the U.S. to those of her life in the Philippines, led her into a life of volunteerism: “I soon realized I have the opportunity to make a difference in my own way, little by little, to those in need,” she said.
The Memorial High School senior became involved with numerous service-based programs at her school, and went on to co-found Grandfriends, a service-oriented club that provides social opportunities for the elderly. Abby says she was first interested in the cause because her mother is a Physical Therapist at a nursing home. Their first few events took place there, but recently they expanded their reach to other locations, as well.
“Though Grandfriends may not be a very big club yet, I think that the little things we do for the elderly at these nursing homes make a big impact on them,” said Abby.
Amanda Deutsch (Junior, North High School)
Fights hunger in her community by teaching healthy habits class and providing summer take home meals for locals kids
When 16 year-old North High School junior Amanda Deutsch attended a retreat at the Heifer International Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, it changed the way she looked at hunger within her community, as well as the world. After returning home, she hatched a plan to educate youth about healthy eating and help provide food packs to children in need.
Amanda’s interest in hunger-solutions began shortly after a 4-H visit to one of Heifer International Ranch’s Global Villages. The mission of Heifer International Ranch is to end hunger and poverty by teaching sustainable agriculture and farming techniques to communities. The Ranch’s Global Gateway program invites groups to spend a night living in Global Villages to learn first-hand about hunger and poverty.
“I quickly realized how fortunate I am and this has become my passion to help others in my own community. I knew people in third world countries experienced hunger, but had no idea how many are affected in my own community in Evansville,” Amanda said.
Amanda came home energized to make a difference in the hunger children were facing in her own community. She started teaching a 4 week “Healthy Habits” class at the Evansville Boys & Girls Club. She loved getting to know the kids there, and hearing their stories. However, she was troubled by how many of them relied heavily on snacks provided during their time at the Boys & Girls Club, because they were unsure if they would have dinner at home.
“While researching about food insecurity in Evansville, I realized there are many areas that are in 100% poverty level, including the Fulton Square Boys & Girls Club,” said Amanda.
Amanda helped write and secure a grant to provide “Fresh Fruit Friday and Protein Power Peanut Butter” take-home bags for the summer for times when the Backpack Food Program is not available. In addition to fundraising enough money to provide the summer take-home bags, they were also able to provide lunch sacks for the kids’ Friday field trips.
Marissa Riordan (Senior, Mater Dei High School)
Collected over 2,000 pairs of shoes and delivered them to Haiti
“While I was in Haiti, I often played soccer with the kids. Every kid would take their shoes off and line them against the wall before starting the game, because they did not want to wear out the soles. What really stuck out to me was how all of their shoes were already worn out or too small,” said Marissa.
Halfway during her time in Haiti, the town was hit by a flood, with water levels rising above the knees in many areas.
“We ran to the school to try and get the books above the water. As we were running one of my friends I had met while there, stepped on a cactus. I ran back to my room and grabbed all the shoes I had brought with me on the trip and started giving them to the people helping us. The next morning I told my dad what I had to do.”
Once home Marissa started e-mailing shoe companies and churches, asking for donations of new or gently used shoes. She dropped off collection barrels and organized pick-ups at area businesses. With an original goal of 500 shoes, Marissa was floored when she learned that after only two weeks, she had collected over 2,000 pairs of shoes.
Jimel Johnson (Evansville Christan School)
Created “Blessing Bags” and delivered them to area homeless shelters
Evansville Christian School fifth grader Jimel Johnson first thought about the issue of homelessness after seeing a video of a man giving out 100 Chipotle burritos to the homeless in Los Angeles.
“After that, I really thought about all the people on the streets that are cold and hungry all the time,” Jimel said. “I continued to see people on the streets everyday, and about a year ago I asked my mom how I could help them.”
Jimel hatched a plan to create Blessing Bags to help homeless people in the community. The bags that he put together contained toiletries, personal care items and food. Jimel’s mother Tonya introduced him to ECHO Community Healthcare employee, Guillermo Guevara, who was able to help Jimel deliver his bags throughout the community to the areas most in need.
Kenzie Paul (Senior, Mount Vernon High School)
Used 3-D printing techniques to create and donate prosthetics to others with limb differences
Mount Vernon High School senior Kenzie Paul, who was born without the lower half of her left arm, was inspired to help others like her after becoming involved with the Lucky Fin Project. Her determination and servant-heart has led her to volunteer with several organizations for individuals with limb differences, and she recently began printing and donating 3D hands to others.
“I decided I wanted to be a leader and make change in the world after I attended Lucky Fin Project Weekend after my freshman year. Lucky Fin Project unites, educates, and celebrates people with limb differences, and it was the first limb different organization I had ever been introduced to,” Kenzie explained. “I met so many incredible people who had similar limb differences, and they inspired me to be the best me I can be. Starting my sophomore year of high school, a few classmates and I started an awareness and fundraising campaign for the Lucky Fin Project.”
Kenzie and Donna Zimmerman, a Department Chair at Ivy Tech Community College, both founded e-NABLE chapters around the same time in 2018. Shortly after, Donna reached out to Kenzie because the two chapters were so close in distance. Together, the two began designing, fabricating, and donating 3D printed prosthetics. As of now, the two have been able to donate prosthetics to 7 different individuals, and have sent a dozen generic devices overseas to third world countries.