When Hopewell Area High School senior Kyle Aurin-Davies chose his senior project, he merely hoped to carry the torch his brother had lit two years ago. His efforts proved successful and earned him some unexpected -- and unwanted -- recognition.
At its November board meeting, the Allegheny County Airport Authority honored 17-year-old Kyle of Raccoon with a certificate of appreciation for raising $3,260 for the Serve-A-Soldier program last summer.
"I was doing it just to do it, and then it was just awkward being recognized," he said. "I'm glad the program is being recognized, but I'm not a person that likes to be in the spotlight for anything."
Operated by the Airport Authority, the Serve-A-Soldier program at the Military and Family Courtesy Center at Pittsburgh International Airport provides Airmall gift cards to active members of the U.S. military who visit the center on Concourse A.
The gift certificates can be used to buy a meal at the Airmall and are funded by donations made by organizations and individuals.
Kyle's older brother, Clinton, created the Serve-A-Soldier program for his senior project two years ago.
"My brother started it, so I have to keep it going," Kyle said.
A little sibling rivalry fueled Kyle's intentions as well. Clinton raised about $8,000 through donations for the program, so Kyle said his goal was to try to top him.
To raise the money, Kyle organized and promoted a Cash Bash on June 2 at the Elks Lodge in Coraopolis. Tickets were $20 and included four numbers to be used in a lottery-style giveaway that evening.
Of the 250 tickets he had available for purchase, Kyle said he sold nearly all of them.
Kyle described it as a relaxed night for people to hang out, enjoy food and drinks, and hopefully go home with some cash. Every 15 minutes throughout the evening, Kyle drew ping pong balls with numbers on them and those ticket holders who matched the four winning numbers were awarded various cash prizes ranging from $75 to the grand prize of $750.
"Everybody was eating and drinking and waiting," he said. "If I wasn't up on stage drawing numbers at the exact time, they would all scream."
Though anticipation was high throughout the entire evening, Kyle said emotions peaked when the grand prize was drawn.
"Everybody was all excited and screaming at me," he said. "People get real into it. It was so much fun."
Kyle said the whole project was a lot of work, but that it was good for the community and he drew a lot from doing it. The biggest thing that stands out to him, he said, was learning to appreciate every little thing people do for him.
He said he also took away from the experience the importance of giving back what you can and helping others out.
Kyle's heart for giving back may extend into a career as he plans to attend Penn State University upon graduation this spring and pursue a career as a school guidance counselor.
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: email@example.com