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Local teen named Hero with Heart

Local teen named Hero with Heart

May 8, 2017

Local teen named Hero with Heart

 (Mansfield, OH) – Richland Newhope has presented its 10th Annual Hero with Heart award to a 15-year-old who has made a significant difference in the lives of many people who have a developmental disability. 

 Four individuals and one family were nominated for the honor.  The agency’s Developmental Disabilities Awareness Committee selected Makayla Luther, a student at Mansfield St. Peter’s, as this year’s winner. 

 “I think it’s amazing,” said Luther.  “I’m so honored.”

 In 2014, shortly after moving to Richland County, Luther and her mother, Virginia, began volunteering at Raintree, an intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities that is operated by Richland Newhope.  She had previously volunteered at a similar facility in Cincinnati.

 “I was always around people with disabilities,” noted Luther.  “It wasn’t anything abnormal for me.  I mean, they’re all my friends!”

 During the past three years, she has helped with numerous activities and special events at Raintree as well as community outings.  Luther has volunteered with the Challenger Little League baseball team and supported individuals from Raintree who have participated in area 5K races using a special Team Hoyt running chair.

 “I did cross-country freshman year, and I love running,” Luther said.  “Just to be able to incorporate my friends along with me in races is just the coolest thing.”

 Prior to attending St. Peter’s, Luther was a student at Lexington Junior High where she volunteered in special needs classrooms.  She even did a science fair project that involved creating a special tray with a weighted cup for one student.

 Luther hopes to eventually study art therapy in college and continue assisting people with disabilities.

 “I’ve grown up all my life helping people, so I know I’m absolutely going to do something along those lines,” she added.

 The other Hero with Heart award nominees were: Aurelio Diaz, an employee at Richland Newhope Industries, Inc. (RNI) and founder of the RNI Dance Troupe; Virginia Harmon, a long-time member of the Richland County Board of Developmental Disabilities; the Bill Benjamin family of Mansfield, which is very active in youth programs; and Mark Sheely, former director of Education at Richland Newhope and the first person to be nominated posthumously.

 The Hero with Heart winner was honored during Richland Newhope’s 28th Annual Recognition Banquet on Fri., May 5, 2017.  In addition, 43 employees were recognized for employment milestones of five to 35 years.  Aurelio Diaz was named the Employee of the Year for 2016.                  Also during the banquet, Richland Newhope (Richland County Board of Developmental Disabilities) honored its 2016 Employees of the Month and members of the Richland County Board of Developmental Disabilities, the Richland Newhope Industries, Inc. Board, and the Pediatric Development Center, Inc. Board, along with five community members who serve on DD Board committees. 

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