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 CNS Story:

HICKEY May-23-2008 (680 words) With photo. xxxn

Lancaster Catholic teen receives international service award

By Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr.
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Shannon Hickey, a 17-year-old Catholic from Lancaster, Pa., is this year's recipient of the Service to Mankind Award from Sertoma International, an organization that raises money for local community projects.

Hickey, who is scheduled to receive her award July 18 at the Sertoma International Convention in Denver, is being honored for her work with the nonprofit group she founded in 2002 called Mychal's Message.

The organization collects and distributes items for the homeless. It is named after the late Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, a chaplain for the New York Fire Department who died helping victims in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The priest was a family friend of Hickey and her mother, Kelly Lynch.

Steven Murphy, executive director of Sertoma, described this year's pool of nominees for the service award as "highly competitive" and "extraordinary across the board." Murphy also found it "very encouraging" that more and more of the nominees are from the younger generation.

Hickey was born with a defective liver, and she received a liver transplant when she was 7 months old. She has always celebrated the liver transplant anniversary as if it were a second birthday, but after Father Judge died Hickey said the anniversary "didn't seem right without him."

She still had the party, but instead of gifts she asked her friends to bring socks that she could then donate to those in need. Her mother sent out e-mails to various friends asking for socks. She ended up with 1,500 pairs of socks, and because of the great response she knew she had to "keep it going."

After the success of the first event, Hickey began, with the help of her mother and grandmother, the Mychal's Message organization to focus on the needs of the homeless. The group works at soup kitchens and distributes a variety of necessities such as socks and coats to homeless people in Philadelphia, Lancaster and other locations in New Jersey and New York.

One of the things that Hickey feels is very important to the ministry of Mychal's Message is attitude.

"I am a strong believer in attitude is everything. If you go into something with a negative attitude, you will come out with nothing," she told Catholic News Service May 21. She also said that if "I touch one person, everything will have been worth all the effort."

This work ethic has garnered Hickey not only the Service to Mankind Award, but also trips to the White House and the State of the Union address.

Hickey's work impacts those she serves and also has influenced her spiritual life. "Once you step on the bread line, it changes you spiritually," she said.

Kelly Lynch believes it has been an "absolute blessing" to watch her daughter "grow and become all she was meant to be." She also believes her faith grew during the time of Hickey's transplant, recalling her increased devotion to Mary during her daughter's surgery.

Before Hickey won the international award, she won the same award at the local, district and regional levels. She described the winning process as "a great adventure." She also said the experience was "exciting and humbling" at the same time.

The only requirement for the Service to Mankind Award is that the winner cannot currently be a member of Sertoma. There are no age requirements for the award; this year's candidates ranged from individuals in their teens to those over 90.

Sertoma International is a service organization with more than 600 chapters. Each chapter tailors its service towards the specific needs of the community. As a collective group the national organization, based in Kansas City, Mo., focuses its service on helping people with speech, hearing and language disorders.

The organization's members represent a wide range of faiths, from various Christian denominations to Buddhism.

This fall, Hickey will be a freshman at Millersville University in Millersville, Pa. She decided to stay close to home to be able to continue her work with Mychal's Message.


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