One of the pleasures of getting to work with the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is meeting people who are so inspired to help young Oklahomans that they dedicate a significant portion of their time, money and livelihood to this great cause.
Last week, I highlighted great work being done by adults on behalf of children. This week, I am pleased to dedicate this column space to honoring Oklahomans under the age of 18 who have done remarkable work to help their peers: other youth. These young Oklahomans have been honored with OICA’s Melvin and Jasmine Moran Kidizenship Award, presented annually to children under 18 who have elevated a service-oriented program to new heights. The recognition includes a trophy and a donation to them or their program.
We are proud to name this award after the Morans, who decided many years ago that Oklahoma needed a children’s museum to provide a place for young people to play and learn. They worked with community leaders in Seminole to establish this place of joy, and it has grown to be one of most beloved destinations in the state for young people.
This year, three young Oklahomans were selected by a committee and the OICA Board of Directors to receive the Kidizenship Award.
The first is Lilly Coate, a 13-year-old who founded Lilly’s Coats for Kids. When she was eight, Lilly saw a small child without a coat in the winter and she wanted to help. She formed her organization and, seven years later, she has collected more than 2,500 coats for children in the Oklahoma City area.
The next is Mary Owen, a 17-year-old who founded Foster Family Night Out, a program to serve Grady County and the surrounding areas. Mary has worked with peers to help dedicate an evening of fun for foster youth and their bridge families, and it has turned into a monthly event. This provides a time for youth to connect and foster parents to have time to run necessary errands.
Our third winner is William Harkin, a 17-year-old student-athlete who has turned his passion for swimming into a way to give back to the community. William volunteers for King Marlin Swim School to teach underprivileged Oklahomans to swim. He also serves as a swim coach for USA Swimming Diversity & Inclusion swim meets.
Each of these students do far more good work than we had room to mention. We are proud of each of these outstanding teenagers for the work they have accomplished and look forward to the many great things ahead for them as they approach adulthood. By recognizing their talent now, we hope this will encourage them to continue their great works throughout their lives, much as Melvin and Jasmine Moran have done.
I am also pleased to announce that OICA will undertake a new initiative in 2020. We are creating a youth advisory council to help provide better insight for us into youth issues. The Oklahoma Youth Parliament will meet quarterly and will discuss current problems faced and learn about state government and advocacy. Each youth program that is an OICA member will be allowed one member of our parliament to participate. Watch more for this at oica.org in the next few weeks or how to become involved.