The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Names Michael Bendok, Clare Flaherty Arizona’s Top Youth Volunteers

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Posted By on February 4, 2020
Michael Bendok & Clare Flaherty

They’re two of the state’s most altruistic youths, and they’ve now earned national recognition for their efforts to improve the communities around them. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, which honor young people who perform outstanding acts of volunteerism, have named Michael Bendok, 16, of Phoenix, and Clare Flaherty, 13, of Scottsdale, Arizona’s top two youth volunteers for 2020, awarding each $1,000, a medallion and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

Michael, of Phoenix Country Day School, earned the High School State Honoree accolade after raising more than $141,000 to further research for rare diseases, many of which receive little funding because they affect a relatively small number of people. Diagnosed with a rare blood disorder at a young age, Michael also had several young friends with rare lung disorders, so he was well-informed about the fact that rare diseases are often under-researched and under-funded.

“Considering the fact that 25 million people currently suffer from one of 7,000 documented rare diseases in the United States, I found the lack of treatment available for patients abysmal,” he said.

Clare Flaherty, a student at BASIS Scottsdale, earned the Middle Level State Honoree accolade for her work fostering kittens for the Arizona Humane Society until they are healthy enough for adoption. She fosters kittens for up to two months at a time, many of which require feedings or medication every three hours.

“Giving my kittens back is a sad day,” Clare said. “There are tears. But it is a wonderful day when I learn of my kittens’ adoptions.”  In May, Michael and Clare will join honorees from other states in the nation’s capital for four days of special events. There, 10 youths will earn America’s top youth volunteer titles for 2020

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