Nickelodeon is holding the awards ceremony in New York City this Wednesday and will feature the HALO winners as well as celebrity guests. Each year, Nickelodeon hosts and broadcasts the HALO Awards in an effort to formally commend youth for their service projects across the country. The HALO Awards enables the winners to connect with celebrities who hold similar volunteer interests and additionally provides them with scholarships and funding for their projects.
RAK Louisville encourages kids to participate in various works across their community, and Dunn first started it as a fifth-grader in 2012.
Dunn’s mother inspired him by making an Advent calendar with different acts of kindness planned for each day.
“I have a completely different view on many things, like with the homeless and with refugees. I actually know what they go through because we’ve helped and gotten close to so many people. They tell us what they go through and what they’ve been through, and people don’t realize how bad in shape they are. It’s really eye-opening,” Dunn said.
Dunn is bringing Lainey Holland (9, J&C), who also helped start the organization in elementary school, to Wednesday’s award ceremony.
“Having those personal one-on-one connections with people, it makes you realize that any effort you make—big or small—has a huge impact,” Holland said.
RAK Louisville challenges students in the community with different monthly service projects, from canned food drives to burrito boxes.
“We served at this homeless organization called The Forgotten Louisville. One year, we did all of their Thanksgiving meal on the waterfront [Waterfront Park], and we served about 175 homeless people that day. Seeing everyone’s face—because it was their first meal of the day and their last Thanksgiving meal for a while—and just knowing that it was the last [meal] a lot of them had was when they were a little stuck with me,” Dunn said.
Dunn’s family and their friends help the organization with finding transportation from different events after the project grew from just Dunn and Holland to students all throughout Jefferson county.
Dunn said he was not expecting to win the award and didn’t know that he was being considered until Nickelodeon directly reached out to him.
“I didn’t nominate myself or know anyone who did. I actually just was found by them after they researched my organization and asked me about myself,” Dunn said.
The students hope to expand the project to reach more of the community, and also hope for more students to have access to volunteering for it.
“I hope that instead of this big organized thing, you can think about how to incorporate it [Not a valid template] into your daily life,” Holland said.
Dunn said he believes the most effective service work happens when a person incorporates something that they’re passionate about into their service project, and for Dunn, this passion was soccer.
“I’m going to ESL Newcomer Academy, which is a refugee school, and we’re [RAK Louisville] gonna give them soccer equipment. We’re gonna give them 100-plus cleats, 20-plus balls and two pop-up soccer goals, and we’re also giving them socks and shirts,” Dunn said.
Even though Dunn’s project has impacted hundreds across Louisville, his teachers and faculty members said that he is a humble and earnest student in the classroom.
“He’s a hard worker and kind of quiet, just grinds away at his work and has a lot of drive. He wasn’t vocal about the award at all. He does what he does because he’s into the work; I hadn’t even learned about him winning it until it was time for him to leave,” Dunn’s teacher, Mr. Scott Williams (Math), said.
Nickelodeon also acknowledged three other HALO Awards honorees from across the country and will televise the HALO Awards 2017 at 7 p.m. on Nov. 26.