Pat LaFontaine served as a presenter at the 2018 Jefferson Awards New York National Ceremony on March 123th in Manhattan. The Jefferson Awards are generally considered the “Nobel Prize for Public Service.” LaFontaine had been a recipient of a national award in 2012.

The member of Hockey’s Top-100 recognized a young girl who had grown very special to him. LaFontaine said that Emma Stumpf was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 7, and had survived 20 surgeries and 70 weeks of chemotherapy treatment. As part of her recovery, Emma turned to artwork and thought that the same things that made her happy, might benefit other pediatric patients. She started collecting supplies and delivering Emma’s Art Carts to kids in need.

Inspired by Emma’s project, The Charter School of Wilmington (DE) collected more than 10,000 art kits this year and delivered them to pediatric patients throughout Delaware. For their effort, the Jefferson Awards had LaFontaine present them with their LEAD360 Award for 2018.

NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal was also recognized for his extensive philanthropy. He told a story of how his mom, Lucille, asked him to support a local school where none of the children would receive a Christmas present. Shaq said, “I asked her how many kids she was talking about – hoping she’d say a couple of hundred. But it was more like a couple of thousand.” Within 48 hours “Shaq-A-Claus” was born. The NBA star rented a few U-Haul trucks, “bought out” a Toys-R-Us store, and everyone had a gift. That was 15 years ago.

Among other recipients of Jefferson Awards was Alexis Jones, a former contestant on the reality show, “Survivor,” and an advocate for women’s rights. She is an internationally recognized author, activist, speaker and media personality. She recently founded ProtectHer, a locker room program educating male athletes on the importance of respecting women.

Miss New York State, Gabrielle Walter introduced sisters, Reagan and Payton Garnsey of Delaware, who were awarded a LEAD360 Recognition by the Jefferson Awards for their project, “Buckets of Love.” Buckets of Love is focused on collecting recycled icing buckets from Sam’s Club in Dover and filling them with goodies to distribute to children in local hospitals aged 2-12.

“I help shop for things and I help stuff the buckets,” Payton said. “We put in coloring books, crayons, markers, stuffed animals, games and crafts.”

Since starting in June 2017 the sisters have raised $3,000 to support the effort and have distributed 101 buckets. When asked why, Reagan said she wants to cheer up kids who might be sad or scared while the await or receive medical treatment.

“I’ve never had to stay in the hospital overnight, but I’ve been in hospitals before,” Reagan said. “In there, despite all the bright paintings on the wall, it can be a sad place sometimes. We just wanted to bring some happiness to the kids in the hospital.”

The Jefferson Awards Foundation was created in 1972. The Awards are given at both national and local levels. Local winners are ordinary people who do extraordinary things without expectation of recognition. The Foundation is led by its Executive Director, Hillary Schafer, its President, Sam Beard, and its Chairman, Joseph N. Sanberg, in conjunction with the Foundation’s Board of Governors.