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At SAMMI Awards, Teacher, Camp Leader, Youths, Others Receive Recognition for Helping Sammamish

The annual community service awards were held Friday and one award winner said that Sammamish is now a Certified Wildlife Habitat Community.

They stepped up to the stage one by one Friday night and took a few moments from their daily lives to stand in front of towering letters, which read GREAT THINGS.

Those steps were taken for good reason. Sammamish residents and those who work on the Plateau were honored during the 10th anniversary of the SAMMI Awards for accomplishing achievements, both large and small.

They helped other residents and they made the city a better place, organizers said.

Among the recipients who took a public bow: A biology teacher, a retirement center director, a woman who helped launch a girls' camp and a boy who convinced his mother to once give up the family's Thanksgiving turkey meal to share with another.

"I'm not going to lie. I'm scared," that boy, Jovahn Pierre I. Cruz, said, as he stood before the audience to accept his award.

The audience chuckled at the remark from the Pine Lake Middle School student, who organizers said welcomes new families to his apartment complex.

As in daily life, he and others did fine on stage.

Hundreds of people gathered inside Eastridge Church in Issaquah to celebrate the annual community service awards. Cary Young, SAMMI Awards executive director, used pith to summarize the recognition, calling it "a decade of inspiration."

The Spirit of Sammamish Award went to Laura Walker, who received applause and cheers from the crowd.

Around town, she is known as the "Pixie Camp Director," because she helped create a week-long camp for Girl Scouts at Beaver Lake.

That was in 2007 when 150 girls attended. Last year, that number soared to 500 girls.

"I want to say thank you to everyone," she said, highlighting the impact that rich summer camp memories can have on kids.

"It goes home and lives in their lives forever."

Environmental Award recipient Elaine McEnery also shared news with the audience - that the city of Sammamish is now the country's 51st Certified Wildlife Habitat Community, under the National Wildlife Federation.

The designation means that Sammamish has habitat for wildlife in parks, backyards, businesses and throughout the city. It is the 12th community in the state to receive the recognition.

She also issued a challenge to the audience: To plant one tree this year to help the environment.

Here is the full list of those who received honors out of the group of . Organizers and award winners themselves said all have done important deeds for Sammamish:

Arts Award: Donna Gelinas

  • She helped organize docent art lessons in the Issaquah School District. "It's definitely a huge honor," she said. "I just want to say thank you."

Business Award: Keenon Kennedy

  • She is the director of the Bellewood Retirement Center. "We are a family," she said, adding that her organization aims to "create purpose" in the lives of residents. "Our residents are active, involved and they care."

Courage Award: Tyler Croshaw

  • He has diabetes, which requires him to take daily shots. A message read on his behalf: "I believe we all have courage within us," Croshaw wrote in his note. "Challenges can give you a better perspective."

Learning Promotion Award: Gretel von Bargen

  • She is a biology teacher at Skyline High School. "It's really nice to be recognized for a job that I love," she said, adding that there are days when challenges pop up. But with 72 eyes looking at her in the classroom, meaning 36 students: "Every worry goes away."

Teen Spirit Award: Josue Lopez

  • He volunteers at his church, food banks and at Overlake Hospital Medical Center. "I always thought the community came to my rescue," he said.

Youth Advocate Award: Anne Ginther

  • She founded Random Kid, which is a nationally-recognized organization that helps young people take action. "I want to applaud everyone. We're all winners," she said, adding that her daughters inspire her. "With God, all things are possible."

Trevor Price Award: Jovahn Pierre I. Cruz

  • Organizers said that "he reminds us that one does not need a lot to give a lot." He thanked everyone, especially his family.

Unsung Hero Award: Man Jae Lee & Family

  • The family volunteers with Faith in Action, a nonprofit group that helps older people with independent living. They help shop and take care of an elderly woman, who cannot leave her house. From the family: "Thank you for giving us such an honorable opportunity."

Environmental Award: Elaine McEnery

  • She uses her expertise on the environment to teach others on the Sammamish Plateau. She also was instrumental in getting the wildlife habitat designation for the city. On how plans get accomplished: "It starts with an idea."

Spirit of Sammamish Award: Laura Walker

  • Walker, who founded a summer camp for Girl Scouts on Beaver Lake, talked about how collective action can make the world better.

Editor's note: Sammamish Patch, along with other organizations and companies, helped sponsor the event.

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