For Eagle Valley High School 10th-grader Matt Genelin, the ultimate benefit in serving others is being able to change the life of another person.
Genelin and his family created the annual LG Triathlon to honor his mother, Laura. He not only competes in the annual triathlon, following in his mother's footsteps, but contributes to the planning of the event, competitor registration and day-of set up. Genelin has been a local leader in cancer fundraising, raising more than $14,000 for cancer research. He raised more than $10,000 for the St. Baldrick's cancer research event alone and was the fourth-highest fundraiser in the local "Relay for Life."
Another of Genelin's long-standing volunteer roles has been with the Buddy Werner Ski League, where he lends a hand every Saturday throughout the winter.
"After completing my time in the program, I chose that I would then give back to all the years they gave me," he said.
Genelin enjoys his role with Buddy Werner, including helping recruit more than 300 kids per year for the program. Genelin looks forward to "helping coach, giving tips and enlightening the moods of the hundreds of children rushing the slopes of Beaver Creek."
When not volunteering on the slopes, running, biking, swimming or working to maintain his 4.0-plus GPA, Genelin is heavily involved with his high school's Devils Against Drinking and Drugs club.
"The piece I cherish most (about the Devils Against Drinking and Drugs community) is knowing that staying drug- and alcohol-free is both a benefitting and smart choice," Genelin said. "I have learned that drugs can mess with one's body in many harmful ways that cannot be reversed, and that one word (no) can be the difference between life and death."
While the list of community involvement roles goes on for Genelin, and includes Gypsum's Halloween event and the annual Community Rummage Sale, which both give back to the community through distributing funds raised, there is one particular event that has topped the rest.
"My favorite service project that I have been involved with had to have been the 4/20 antidrug rally. This event took place on April 20, or national 'Smoke Marijuana' day. The event was designed to offer an alternative event to prevent people in our community from smoking marijuana," Genelin said.
The Devils Against Drinking and Drugs group partnered with the Eagle River Youth Coalition, Eagle County Sheriff's Office, Vail and Avon Police Departments, Eagle County School District and Eagle River Fire Protection District for this inaugural event.
"We had free hot dogs, drinks, music and activities for people of all ages to come and enjoy," Genelin said. "This event had to be my favorite because DADD as a whole was contributing to helping our community and also to helping their health."
When asked his favorite part about serving others, Genelin said "watching the reaction and heart-warming responses from the people affected. ... The feeling of heart-warming fuzziness that overtakes me has to be the best feeling in the whole entire world, drawing me back to giving kindness over and over again. Just knowing that, little by little, my work could change an entire community is the best knowledge I will ever encounter."
Genelin holds high regard for those who give of themselves to improve the lives of others.
"Service is a way of giving back to your community and showing how thankful you are for all the people that make your community such a stellar place," he said. "There are people out there that work every single day to make sure that your soccer field or swimming pool or even our city park stays running, and community service is a way to show your gratitude to their work and show them that you care."
When speaking about his hope of inspiring others to give back, Genelin encourages peers to "just got for it. Lives can be changed through the littlest of work. Although it may be hot, stormy or tough, the thought of my contribution and the potential outcome is what counts, and I would really love my peers and community to give it a try because once you start, you can't stop."
"Matt is an amazing young man, exhibiting leadership skills and serving as a role model for his peers," said Nicole Dewell, English and social studies teacher at Eagle Valley High School.
Michelle Stecher is executive director of the Eagle River Youth Coalition. The Youth Leaders Council is a program of the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers collaborative prevention programs and services to tackle three main areas that affect the development of teens and adolescent youth - substance-abuse prevention, emotional wellness and mental-health promotion and academic achievement. In addition to Youth Leaders Council, Eagle River Youth Coalition offers various levels of parenting classes and training for community members. For more information, call 970-949-9250 or visit www.eagleyouth.org.