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Worthington Daily Globe

Teen's service rewarded

Whitney Buesgens
Whitney Buesgens (center) of Slayton was honored with the 2004 national Prudential Spirit of Community Award.  She is pictured with Arthur Ryan, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial Inc., and Cindy Rudrud.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

By Julie Buntjer

SLAYTON - Seventeen-year-old Whitney Buesgens of Slayton was one of 10 students from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico honored with the national Prudential Spirit of Community Award as America's 2004 top youth volunteers.  The ceremony was Monday in Washington, D.C.

Buesgens, a junior at Murray County Central, was recognized for her work in starting Camp Love's Embrace, a grief camp for children ages 7 to 14 who have lost a loved one.  Since forming in May 2002, the camp has tripled its capacity.  This year, 18 children will attend the overnight camp, and another six are on a waiting list with calls still coming in.

"I do all the fund-raising by myself so the camp is completely free to all of the children," Buesgens said.  She got the idea for the camp after seeing a television news program about a camp in New Jersey that was available to children who lost family members in the 9-11 attacks.

"I went to a local social worker and asked her about the possibility of starting the camp," Buesgens said.  From there, she established a board of directors and recruited students from college social work programs to help children at the camp.  She also hit the streets to raise money so the camp would be free to participants.  More than $10,000 was raised from civic organizations and businesses to begin the camp.

Buesgens was chosen in February as one of two Minnesota youth to represent the state.  Nation-wide, more than 20,000 applications were received for the honor.  As a statewide winner, she received a $1,000 money market scholarship, silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by Prudential and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the national event honored participants with a gold medallion, a $5,000 money market scholarship, a crystal bowl to be displayed at their school and $25,000 in toys, clothing and other juvenile products donated in their names to needy children in their area by Kids in Distressed Situations Inc.

During the weekend activities, Buesgens met Whoopi Goldberg, who gave an inspiring talk to the youth, and received her award from Cokie Roberts, a television news personality.  Today's events in-cluded meeting U.S. Sens. Mark Dayton and Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

Buesgens and the other honorees participated in group activities over the weekend, and had free time to tour the city.

"It just humbles you to see what some of these people can do," she said of the other national award winners.  Among them are teens who sent care packages to soldiers, conducted book collection drives for hospital waiting rooms and shelters, and founded a statewide support group for teens with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Minnesota's second honoree, Jenessa Largent, 12, of White Bear Lake, was also among the 10 national award winners.  She designed a freedom bracelet for U.S. soldiers serving overseas, and has made and shipped nearly 80,000 of them in the past year.  She also developed a Web site offering the bracelets free to soldiers.

On the Web:  www.camplovesembrace.com

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