Celebrating the heart for service shared by six local students, the first Golden Lion Awards banquet was held Monday, June 23, at Missouri Southern.

Co-sponsored by KSNF/KODE and Beimdiek Insurance, the event paid tribute to the time, talent and efforts the students have given to better their communities.

Winners of the Golden Lion Award attended a banquet at Southern on June 23.

Winners of the Golden Lion Award attended a banquet at Southern on June 23.

John Hoffman, vice president/general manager of KSNF-TV, said that the idea of celebrating high-school students for their volunteer work came following the tornado in 2011.

“One of the largest groups (that volunteered in Joplin) was young people,” he said. “There are awards for top students, athletics and music, but we need an award for young adults who give of themselves and lend others a helping hand. Your time is valuable. For you to take the time to help your community, that is a very special quality indeed.”

Students recognized during the awards ceremony were Jordan Barkley, Riverton High School; Ashley Burns, East Newton High School; Savannah Hoagland, Joplin High School; Remington Murray, Riverton High School; Lacy Resa, Webb City High School; and Lauran White, Carl Junction High School.

Their volunteer work ranged from painting fingernails for chemotherapy patients at the Freeman Cancer Institute, to working with the Joplin Humane Society, the Ronald McDonald House and Special Olympics.

In his remarks, Dr. Alan Marble – president of Missouri Southern – said that the young women being honored demonstrated the difference between success and significance. While the former is defined as the achievement of goals, the latter carries with it a deeper importance and meaning.

“Success doesn’t always lead to significance, but significance almost always leads to success,” he said.

Each of the students was honored following a brief video presentation highlighting their volunteer work. Following the recognition, Ashley Burns was announced as the winner of the $5,000 Golden Lion Award scholarship for her work at the George Washington Carver National Monument. The other five students received scholarships for $1,000.

“It’s such an honor from a school I’m so honored to go to,” said Burns, who will be joining Missouri Southern as a freshman in the Honors Program this fall. “I’m so blessed to have this school so near my home and so near to where I volunteer so I can continue to go there.”

Brent Westhoven, with Beimdiek Insurance, called looking through all of the nominations for the Golden Lion program an “eye-opening experience.” He said he hopes the efforts of the six students honored would inspire others to help their communities through volunteerism.

“In our area, there are more than 500 non-profit agencies (where you can volunteer),” he said. “Take a little time, do some research and find one that’s a good fit for you.”

Savannah Hoagland –  a licensed therapy dog handler who visits local hospitals, mental health facilities and nursing homes – said it was an “awesome feeling” to be honored for her work, which also has its personal benefits.

“I’m able to go home with a smile and know that I helped someone other than myself,” she said.