Spring is the time for awards of all kinds, from academic honors bestowed at commencement ceremonies to plaques and citations given at annual meetings and dinners.
Today, on page one, you’ll find the first in a Sunday series called “Difference Makers” about local people making a difference for the good.
There’s no shortage of such people hereabouts. Open the pages of the paper on almost any day, and you’ll find many people deserving of thanks and praise for helping others or the community at large.
Here are a few worthy of mention from just the past week:
— Methuen High students Scott Yim and Madison Aleksa helped organize the first Methuen Relay for Life, part of a national fundraising effort for cancer research. Last weekend, almost 1,000 people on more than 90 teams turned out for the fifth annual Relay. Yim was there to see the fruits of the seeds he helped plant. “This is no longer our event, but everyone’s in Methuen,” said Yim, a newly minted Harvard grad. Current Methuen High students carry on the tradition. Abby Case, Jake Fabrizio and Laura Quinn co-chaired this year’s event, which brought the total raised to more than $1.2 million.
— Groundwork Lawrence worked for more than a decade to make the Spicket River Greenway a reality and last week officially opened the 3.5-mile “emerald bracelet,” a smaller version of Boston’s famed “Emerald Necklace.” The Greenway incorporates six Lawrence parks, with a seventh to come, and paths for bicyclists and walkers. “It’s amazing to see what was there before and what is there now,” said Heather McMann, executive director of the nonprofit Groundwork Lawrence, which has led an annual cleanup of the Spicket River for 11 years, removing more than 110 tons of debris.
— Fifty-four members of the Salem Fire Department shaved their heads in support of fellow firefighter Capt. Steve McKenna, who is battling cancer. Besides offering a visible symbol of the “brotherhood” of firefighters, the group is also organizing fundraisers to help McKenna and his family. “In the fire service, everyone pulls together when someone is in need of help,” Firefighter Chris Geras said.
— Brandi Zizza, 17, will graduate from Haverhill High today. She might not have made it without the help of teacher Kerry Murphy and others who tutored her at home when an autoimmune disease made her too ill to attend school two years ago. With Murphy’s help, Brandi is actually graduating a year early and, with her health improved, is planning to attend St. Anselm College in the fall. Said Brandi’s mom, Kimberly Zizza, of Murphy: “She is truly an angel that was sent to us to help get us through our most difficult times.”
— One of the honorees at the Moynihan Lumber Merrimack Valley Scholar-Athlete of the Year Awards last week was Jake Lovett, 83, of Plaistow, who received a Lifetime Commitment award. He helped found the Timberlane Tornadoes youth football program 46 years ago and is still active in the program. Forty-six years, that’s a lot of commitment.
— Briyith Betances of Lawrence is president of the Keystone Club, a leadership group that serves as a junior staff for the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club, mentoring younger members, supervising the club’s supper program, helping out at other events and performing two community service projects a year. She’s also the Youth of the Year for Massachusetts Boys & Girls Clubs and will compete for the Northeast Regional title in New York City this month. Last week, she was honored by the Boston Red Sox, throwing out the first pitch at Wednesday’s game against the Texas Rangers.
Thanks and congratulations to all. May their stories, and those of others this summer, inspire others to make a difference.