GUYS MILLS —
Austin Pierce thinks bowling is really sweet.
Mention the sport, and the 15-year-old’s bright eyes flash brighter, his wide smile grows wider.
He’s been hitting the lanes in Special Olympics events since he was 8, rolling his way into state- and national-level games and bringing home gold and silver medals and other awards. He’s even raised more than $4,000 for Crawford County Special Olympics by collecting pledges for yearly bowl-a-thons.
Sweet. Really sweet.
And he thinks it’s cool — really cool — that his little sister, Calista, has helped Austin and other kids out in big ways too: Since 2007, the now-12-year-old Guys Mills sixth-grader has raised more than $13,000 for Crawford County Special Olympics — and almost $11,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation — by making and selling her own jewelry, crafts, ceramics, treats and more through her ongoing, one-of-a-kind “Calista Cares” project.
So it’s really sweet — and really cool — that Calista’s now been named a national award-winner for those efforts by the Lovin’ Scoopful ice cream company.
Maria Shriver’s and Tim Shriver’s Seattle-based company (which donates 25 percent of all its profits to Special Olympics programs and partners with nonprofits that support people with intellectual challenges) announced on Wednesday that Calista is the recipient of Lovin’ Scoopful’s second annual Lovin’ Compassion Award. That award highlights and honors “young visionaries from around the country who are involved in programs that foster respect, inclusion and a true personal connection for people with differences,” the company stated in announcing the award, which Calista was nominated for by local Special Olympics organizers.
“It’s a great joy to recognize young leaders” like Calista, company co-founder Maria Shriver said in a news release. “Showing compassion for others takes tremendous courage at any age, and we hope (such) stories will inspire others.”
But for Calista, it seems, keeping busy — very busy — with the “Calista Cares” project, Special Olympics events and everything (and everyone) else her work benefits has simply become second nature. Getting showered with high accolades, however, has apparently not.
“I don’t know what to say,” she said with a shy smile during an interview at her family’s home Wednesday.
One thing she said she’s sure of, though, is why she’s kept on, and will keep on, doing what she does: “When I get to see the (Special Olympics) athletes’ faces” as they’re participating, “they’re so excited. ... It’s really awesome.”
Randy Gorske, director of The Arc of Crawford County (a local nonprofit with many clients involved in Special Olympics), said it’s that genuine enthusiasm that makes Calista and her efforts shine — and it’s a big inspiration for others.
“The spirit she brings and the spirit she shows — it’s catching,” he said Wednesday. “She represents what Special Olympics is all about. ... (And) we appreciate her a great deal.”
Along with helping local kids get to and from Special Olympics events around the state and country, Calista’s also set on helping kids go lots of other places through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. To date, she’s helped three children from northwestern Pennsylvania see one of their wishes come true — from trips to Disney World to a limousine-led trip to a Taylor Swift show. Now, she’s focusing some of her efforts on Austin’s big wish: To have a total home makeover that would make everyday life a little easier for him and his family, and also allow Austin — who thoroughly enjoys lending a hand with dishes and other household chores — to offer more help to his parents, Jen and Ed Pierce.
“I’ve just kind of had little goals,” Calista said, and “I increase them every time I (accomplish) one.”
And, according to her and her family, it’s worth every bit of the effort.
With everything she has going on, “it gets crazy at times,” Ed Pierce said with a laugh. “But it’s amazing at the same time.”
To find out where, when and how you can see more of what “Calista Cares” is all about — including 12-year-old Calista Pierce’s causes, efforts and upcoming events — visit calistacares.com.
Ryan Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.