Coinciding each year with the annual Gold Medal Ceremony, the Congressional Award hosts a Recognition Dinner for Gold Medalists and their families in Washington, D.C. The event celebrates the grand feat of achieving Congress’ highest honor for youth. Participation in the event provides a platform for Gold Medalists to engage with Members of Congress, civic leaders, and partners of the program. Organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 4-H, YMCA, United States Air Force and the Corporation for National and Community Service often take pride in helping congratulate our young achievers.
This annual dinner was originally hosted by the late Senator Ted Kennedy. He and his colleagues focused on the importance of civic engagement as well as the building of self-esteem and respect for others. Members of the House and Senate attend the event each year to provide words of encouragement and present the Horizon, Leadership, and Inspiration Awards.
The theme of the 2016 dinner was “wellness.” The Congressional Award balances physical wellness with that of the mind and spirit. With four distinct parts, the program exercises the ability to push yourself, see results, and discover what you are made of. Sports, entrepreneurship, artistic expression, public speaking, science, and leadership. These skills and more have been pursued, developed, and refined by the recent class of Congressional Award Gold Medalists. Skills that will make their future’s brighter, that gave them a sense of pride and purpose. These young people have provided value and contributions that improve not only their own personal wellness, but the health of entire communities.
We were excited to have radio host Tommy McFly of 94.7 Fresh FM bring charisma and humor to the evening as the Master of Ceremony. Lynda Carter, who is best known for her iconic role as Wonder Woman in the 1975 television series, graced the stage to invoke inspiring words of wisdom as well as assist in the presentation of this year’s Horizon Award.
National Baseball Hall of Famer Mr. Cal Ripken, Jr. and actress/philanthropist America Ferrera were this year’s Horizon Award honorees. This award is presented to individuals from the private sector who have contributed to expanding opportunities for all Americans through their own personal contributions.
The Inspiration Award (Advisor of the Year) was presented to Laura and Mike O’Connor, advisors in Utah that have truly worked to support and promote the Congressional Award nationwide. Having earned medals themselves, the O’Connors continue their love for the program by instilling the opportunity for the next generation of youth. They both continue to guide hundreds of youth through the program every year.
Often unrecognized, the event also made an effort to honor the unsung heroes – parents, advisors, and friends of each Gold Medalist – who supported their drive to go-the-distance and discover their potential.