Sierra Vista student is top volunteer for 2010

Risha Shukla, a Sierra Vista Middle School eighth-grader who co-founded an organization that brings cheer to children with serious medical issues, was recently named California’s top middle school volunteer for 2010 through the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program.

Established by Prudential Financial, Inc., in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the awards program annually honors young people for exemplary acts of altruism. As a result of her state recognition, Risha in May is set to take an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where 10 finalists will be selected as America’s top youth volunteers for 2010.

She may be just 13 years old, but Risha already has an impressive resume when it comes to volunteerism. It all began with her own hospitalization six years ago.

As a 7-year-old, Risha underwent a lengthy and challenging medical procedure, and during her subsequent recovery she found herself with little to do but stare at the walls of her hospital room. 

That prompted her to co-found the Kids Who Care Foundation, a non-profit organization that brings smiles and support to children facing significant medical issues. The foundation regularly sends out “smile packs,” including cards, books, DVDs, toys and games, to hospitalized children and residents of Ronald McDonald Houses around the country.

Risha and her fellow volunteers also stage variety shows for young patients. While she continues to battle health issues, Risha has spoken to more than 2,500 people and continues to promote compassion to those who need it most.

As part of its ongoing efforts, the Kids Who Care Foundation is gearing up for a March 6 Walk-A-Thon at Irvine Regional Park. Proceeds from the event will help provide school supplies for children in Haiti, as well as toys, books and games for patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

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