WorkCamper named state finalist for service award

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When Maddie Rosso was about 6 years old, her mom asked what she wanted for Christmas. Rosso's answer: to send school supplies to poor children in Africa.

"She's always thought of others," said Rosso's mother, Alyson. "She is the one who reaches out to the kid at the lunch table who doesn't have a friend. Maddie has always been someone who's asked, 'How can I help that person?'"

Such thoughtfulness - and a willingness to roll up her sleeves to make a difference - recently garnered Rosso, 18, recognition by the country's largest youth awards program based exclusively on volunteer community service.

The parishioner of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester was named one of six distinguished Virginia finalists in the 2015 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The program was created 20 years ago in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Rosso, a senior at James Wood High School in Winchester, was surprised and delighted to be a finalist, but her real satisfaction comes from serving others.

She's volunteered in soup kitchens, nursing homes and at an afterschool program, and for the past three years participated in her favorite service project - the diocesan WorkCamp.

The first year she helped demolish and rebuild a deck while making friends that she's kept in touch with.

"It was such a great experience, and it kept me coming back," said Rosso.

The second year she helped replace a front door and repaint a house. Last year, she worked on roofing.

"I'm afraid of heights, so I like that I was able to conquer my fear," she said.

At the end of one WorkCamp, a woman whose home was repaired by campers joined the teens for lunch and spoke about what their efforts meant to her.

"It was so humbling that I cried," said Rosso. "Helping people like that makes me feel so good - overwhelming happiness and so much joy - a joy that you don't get anywhere else."

Kevin Bohli, director of the Youth Ministry Office, said it is wonderful that Rosso is being recognized for her generosity.

"I'm very proud of Maddie for her three years of service at WorkCamp and the many other ways that she shares the love of Christ with those in her community," he said.

Tom Marino, parish WorkCamp coordinator and director of youth ministry at Sacred Heart of Jesus, said he's been impressed with Rosso's "willingness to do what needs to be done to help others."

He said Rosso, who is active in the parish youth group, reveals the strength of her faith through her service.

"As Jesus says, 'A good tree bears good fruit.' Maddie has a good heart, good faith; if you look at her actions you can see that."

This fall Rosso, an honor student, will attend Shenandoah University in Winchester, where she intends to study occupational therapy.

"I want a career where I can help people out," she said.

With college around the corner, Rosso plans to work two summer jobs and will be unable to attend WorkCamp this year.

Though disappointed she can't participate, Rosso said the joy she felt at WorkCamp will motivate her to stay involved in the community, even when she encounters the stress of college life.

It's not always comfortable or easy to reach out to those in need, "but I think you have to make time for it," she said. "You can be that one person to put a smile on someone's face. Sure, sometimes you're really busy and you don't feel like it, but when push yourself to do it, it's really rewarding."

It helps to keep in mind, she added, "that you're sacrificing your time not just for others, but for the Lord."

More on WorkCamp

The diocesan WorkCamp, started in 1990, is an annual service project sponsored by the Office of Youth Ministry. This year's camp will bring together 800 teenagers to repair 160 homes in Shenandoah County June 20-26.

"Pope Francis has called us to be missionary people and to get out of our comfort zones to live our faith in a very visible way," said Kevin Bohli, director of the Youth Ministry Office. "WorkCamp is a great opportunity for young people to practice that for a week and hopefully jump-start a life of service in the name of Christ."

How to help

WorkCamp adult and young adult volunteers are needed. For more information contact Darren Bryant at 703/841-2559 or d.bryant@arlingtondiocese.org.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015