Arkansas’ top two youth volunteers of 2018, Anna Richey, 16, of Paris and Alexis Roberson, 13, of Caraway, were honored in the nation’s capital recently for their volunteer service during the 23rd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Anna is a daughter of Dr. Jason and Tracy Richey of Paris.

Anna and Alexis – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Anna and Alexis Arkansas’ top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.

Anna, a sophomore at Paris High School, organizes an annual community “tea party” that has collected more than $100,000 in gifts and donations over the past four years to brighten the Christmas season for foster children. When Anna and her sisters learned how many children were in foster homes in the state, they resolved to do something to help.

“We decided that no matter what the circumstances, all kids should have smiles on Christmas morning,” she said.

The Richey sisters hosted a holiday tea party at their house and invited friends to bring gifts for foster children. Each successive year their party grew bigger, so four years ago, they made it a public event, moved it to a local community center and invited all the elementary school girls in their area. They also got the help of Friends of CASA, the school’s FBLA organization and a group of volunteers.

After her older sister graduated from high school, Anna assumed overall responsibility for running the party, overseeing publicity, volunteer recruitment, donation collection, and event logistics. The 2016 party alone drew more than 300 attendees and collected nearly $28,000 in gifts for 120 foster kids. Anna notes that the party also serves to make her whole community aware of the “desperate need” to improve the lives of children in foster care.

“These honorees exemplify something we’ve known for a long time – that young volunteers have the power to bring meaningful change to their communities,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “These students have shown leadership and determination well beyond their years, and it’s a privilege to celebrate their service.”

“Through their acts of service, these honorees drive home a powerful lesson for their peers: that one student really can make a difference,” said Daniel P. Kelley, president of NASSP. “We are honored to shine a spotlight on the compassion, drive and ingenuity of each of these young volunteers.”

Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of Points of Light’s Hands On Network. More than 29,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.