Arrowman James O'Dwyer was recently recognized with a Teen Nick HALO Award for developing a relief program in support of the victims of last year's tornado disaster in Alabama.
Country music star Taylor Swift presented O'Dwyer, an Eagle Scout and Brotherhood member of Egwa Tawa Dee Lodge, with the award for his hard work and leadership in co-founding Magnolia Disaster Relief-a charity that provides resources and support for victims of the EF4 tornado that struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in April 2011.
O'Dwyer had only lived in Tuscaloosa for eight months before the tornado hit. It was realizing "That I could very easily have been one of those people who lost everything, and just how lucky I was that I hadn't been affected directly at all," that motivated him, O'Dwyer said.
O'Dwyer started where most teenagers would: Facebook. He created a page for both those affected by the tornado to post their needs and concerned citizens to offer support, and O'Dwyer's team then "connected the dots." Magnolia Disaster Relief grew into an interstate campaign that resulted in innumerable donations from everyday Americans. Thus far, the charity has collected over $50,000 in cash or gift card donations, $30,000 in pet food donations, and four 18-wheelers, four 26-foot box trucks, six cargo vans, and countless SUV/pickup truck loads of supplies.
He credits Scouting and the OA for instilling the value of service in him. "I learned the values of hard work, dedication, and service through Scouting very early on," he said. In retrospect, O'Dwyer shared, brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service, three key principles of his charity work, were strengthened in him through the lessons learned in the Ordeal.
An important takeaway from O'Dwyer's story is that he is not any different from other Arrowmen and Scouts across the nation; he just acted on his intuition.
"I never imagined anything like this would come of the first little Facebook group I started and the email my mom sent out to my church, but it just shows you how something can take off when you put the work into it," he said.
Scouting and the OA seek to instill in their members a willingness to serve our fellow man. O'Dwyer encourages Scouts to act on their desire to serve. "Whatever your passion may be, from helping disaster victims to playing basketball [or even] playing video games, think about how you can use that to make a difference in others' lives," advises O'Dwyer.
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