On the Bright Side: Seventh-grader earns national youth volunteer award

Reagan Garnsey and sister Payton drop off some of their buckets for Buckets of Love. Reagan recently received The Prudential Spirit of Community award, a youth volunteer awards program that honors students in grades 5 to 12 for volunteer service. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — For Reagan Garnsey, the honors accrued for her nonprofit Buckets of Love don’t equate to bragging rights — it means she was to be able to help more children.

“When we win an award like this, we share with our supporters how their donations and all they’ve done for us is really helping us to make more of an impact for kids,” she noted.

Reagan, 13, is a seventh-grade student at Holy Cross School. She began Buckets of Love with her younger sister, Payton, in 2017. Buckets of Love seeks to collect toys, games and crafts for children in hospitals, homeless shelters, foster care and more.

Since its founding three years ago, Buckets of Love has donated nearly 8,000 buckets to children in all 50 states. Reagan and Payton collect money and items to fill their buckets through bake sales and toy drives, and from donations.

Buckets of Love is the recent recipient of The Prudential Spirit of Community award, a youth volunteer awards program that honors students in grades 5 to 12 for volunteer service.

The award, now in its 25th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

“We’ve been applying for the past two years; I guess the third year’s the charm,” she laughed. “I’m super excited to be honored, it’s really great.”

Reagan is one of Delaware’s top two honorees this year, along with Madison Vogel, 17, a senior at Sussex Technical High School.

“We love to help kids because we are kids, we understand what they’re going through at that age,” she said of Buckets of Love. “It’s something different and a more personal connection when you have kids helping kids. It’s really important for kids to be supporting each other.”

As part of the award, Reagan will receive $1,000 and will travel to Washington, D.C. in early May for a four-day event that will bring together the top two honorees from each state. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2020.

Reagan noted that she is thankful for what the award stands for.

“They’re honoring so many kids all across the country and our state who are making a difference and encouraging them to make a difference. I really appreciate it,” she said.

As a student, running a foundation with the goal of getting to 10,000 buckets donated requires a lot of multitasking, she noted.

“It’s a team effort between our whole family,” she said.

She maintained that it’s important for her and her peers to reach out to those in need.

“I think it’s important for kids to help kids,” she said. “It solidifies that message of just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference.”