Jefferson Awards Recognizes Indianapolis Volunteers

​Washington, DC, June 15-16, 2016–The Jefferson Awards Foundation, America’s gold seal of public service, will honor this year’s most outstanding public service achievers during its annual gala in Washington, D.C. The events, held in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on June 15 & 16, 2016, will recognize and celebrate students, grassroots public service individuals, employees and companies making a difference. Honorees include celebrities, public service professionals, entrepreneurs, local heroes and corporations all dedicated to public service.

Grassroots recipients are selected through local media partners in markets throughout the country. Justin Phillips was selected by RTV6. Justin lost her 20-year son Aaron to a heroin overdose in 2013, and she’s determined to prevent similar tragedies. Thanks to her efforts, in 2015 the Indiana Legislature passed “Aaron’s Law” which allows anyone to get a prescription for Narcan, the heroin overdose antidote, and to legally administer it. An estimated 1,400 heroin users have been saved by police and emergency medical technicians using Narcan. Justin also created Overdose Lifeline, a nonprofit program that provides free Narcan and training, education and prevention for youth, support for families, and advocacy to address addiction as a healthcare issue, not a criminal justice issue.

Decatur Central High School from Indianapolis will serve as the Central Indiana Student In Action representative, after earning top honors in the spring competition held at the Indianapolis Colts training facility.  Decatur Central High School was recognized as Indianapolis’ Regional School of the Year for continued impact in their school, community, and world through a host of impactful service projects: Mary’s Movement raised $358 through compassion events to help stop the bullying of special needs children; project 10K collected 4,560 cans of food to feed central Indiana families; Fostering Care collected 1,154 toys to give to foster children in need and was a LEAD360 National Finalist. The Team is committed to developing the next generation of Students In Action leaders who will continue to build these legacy projects and grow community impact to an even larger scale in the future. Student leadership teams are selected through Students In Action, a national leadership training program and competition run by the Jefferson Awards Foundation.

Gail Mitchell of CNO Financial Group will represent the Central Indiana for our Champions Program.  Gail Mitchell began volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association in 2010 during the annual, nationwide fundraiser “Forget Me Not Days” sponsored by Bankers Life. Hearing the stories of families struggling to care for loved ones with this disease reinforced her commitment to fundraising and set her on a path to broaden the scope of her volunteerism for the charity. In 2015, Gail chaired the planning committee for the Greater Indiana chapter’s annual “Chocolate Sunday” brunch. This event raises funds for care, support and research to directly benefit individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. She looks forward to the day Alzheimer’s disease is cured. Employees and organizations are selected through the Champions program, a national recognition and engagement platform run by the Jefferson Awards Foundation.

Mike Mootz of Citizens Energy Group will represent the Central Indiana for our Champions Program.  Mike is being honored for his great work protecting the people of Sheridan, Indiana as a member of the town’s volunteer fire department. Mike’s success in securing more than $100,000 of state and federal grants has been especially important to keeping the small town’s fire and emergency response equipment up to date. Mike has also been a member of the Sheridan Volunteer Fire Department in Indiana since 2001, and is a certified Emergency Medical Technician B. In addition to his commitment to Citizens Energy Group and the Sheridan Volunteer Fire Department, Mike is a devoted husband to Holly, his wife of 26 years. Mike and Holly are dedicated to providing loving care for their elderly parents. Mike shares the Jefferson Awards honor with his fellow volunteers at the Sheridan Fire Department.” Employees and organizations are selected through the Champions program, a national recognition and engagement platform run by the Jefferson Awards Foundation.

“The Jefferson Awards Foundation is proud to continue in the tradition of our namesake as we recognize the incredible achievements of these individuals,” said Hillary Schafer, Executive Director of The Jefferson Awards Foundation. “We hope that we can be a beacon for others who wish to contribute to their own communities, and that our honorees will help to activate these initiatives.”

National winners include former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will also receive the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Outstanding Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official at the ceremony for his unflinching work and support of the U.S. educational system. Previous recipients of the award include: former Arizona politician Gabrielle Giffords and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

Sophia Sanchez-Maes, will be honored with a national award for Outstanding Service by an Individual 25 or Under. Sanchez-Maes’ research on algae biofuel and her work to pioneer a new process that produces a positive energy yield earned her national recognition. Previous recipients of the under 25 award include the Kid President team and 2015 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Patrick Ip.

Silicon Valley philanthropist and entrepreneur Sean Parker will be presented with the S. Roger Horchow Award for Outstanding Public Service by a Private Citizen. In June 2015, Parker, founding president of Facebook and co-founder of Napster, launched the Parker Foundation with a $600 million gift to build on more than a decade of support for cancer research, global public health and civic engagement. In April of this year, the Parker Foundation announced a $250 million grant to create the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, an unprecedented collaboration between the country’s leading immunologists and cancer centers — Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford University, UCLA, UCSF, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the University of Pennsylvania. He will join the ranks of previous recipients of this award including comedian Bob Hope and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Kyle Zimmer, President and CEO of First Book, will receive the national award for Outstanding Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged for her tireless work to further equal access to quality education for children from low-income families. Zimmer co-founded the nonprofit social enterprise First Book to ensure that under-resourced schools and community programs across the country serving children in need have a steady supply of the brand-new, high-quality books, educational materials and basic items that are critical for learning. Previous award winners include: Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward and Bill & Melinda Gates.

At the gala, sponsored by Vodaphone, CLEARSIGHT ADVISORS and United Steelworkers, the Jefferson Awards Foundation will present national awards in 3 other categories. These surprise announcements will be made on Thursday, June 16th at the Gala Dinner. These categories include: three top schools in its Students In Action program, two top employees in the Champions program and five top Media Partner local winners.

About the Jefferson Awards Foundation
The Jefferson Awards Foundation (JAF) powers others to have maximum impact on the things they care about most. Through celebration, they inspire action. With programs and partnerships, they drive Americans to change their communities and the world. To learn more about the Jefferson Awards Foundation, visit: or engage with our community on Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, and Facebook.

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