Teen spreads message of perseverance after being bullied

Geneva Gives’ Hero Of The Year Finalist, Lucas Smith

Meet the second of our Hero Of The Year Finalists, Lucas Smith. Lucas has not only turned his own challenges into triumphs, he is making it his life’s work to help others do the same.

His dedication to serving others through his work with the Humane Society, Miracle League, and Generations Against Bullying would be enough to win him many accolades, but he doesn't stop there. Lucas works with teachers and others in the community to help stop bullying in schools.

He leads by example ad his efforts have moved others students to be more respectful and open to standing up for others. He has made speeches and has worked thru state organizations to make sure that all students understand that bullying others is not acceptable.

Read Lucas’ story below, through the voice of his nominator.

Learn more about the Hero Of The Year Initiative

Hero's Name: Lucas Smith

Hero's City of Residence: Manitowoc

Hero's State of Residence: WI

Eligible Categories:: Child Facing Adversity

Please describe what makes this individual a TRUE hero:: Luke accepts everyone for who they are, tries to help others believe in their abilities, and works to help make the world a better place. 2 years ago Luke's principal wrote him a reference letter we these words: When I think of Lucas the first word that comes to mind is hero. He is truly an inspiration to his classmates and community. .Lucas is the type of person who makes everyone around him better. He dedicates his life to helping others, He dedicates his life to helping others, and it is because of his selfless commitment to his community and helping people that makes him special. Lucas is a leader. He inspires others to do their best and be their best. He has devoted so much of himself to others and that work has inspired other students in our learning community to do things for others. His dedication to serving others through his work with the Humane Society, Miracle League, and Generations Against Bullying would be enough to win him many accolades, but he doesn't stop there. Lucas works with teachers and others in the community to help stop bullying in schools. He leads by example ad his efforts have moved others students to be more respectful and open to standing up for others. He has made speeches and has worked thru state organizations to make sure that all students understand that bullying others is not acceptable.I believe that Lucas is not only a hero for our school but also for our state and nation. I am hopeful for our future because of students like Lucas and his work and dedication to making our community and schools a more respectful place to live and go to school.

Please describe how this individual has impacted the lives and community around them:: Luke clearly remembers the first day he was bullied ,in preschool, kids called him names because he was different. The kids took his glasses, broke them, and then threw them in the sand pit. He vowed to try and turn something negative into something positive so others didn’t have to feel the way he did that day-ever. Luke was diagnosed with Autism, , and developmental coordination disorder at the age of 6. From little on Luke has always had an extreme love for animals and at the age of 6 started volunteering for the Lakeshore Humane Society. He found a need and the animals accepted him for who he was so he started to reconnect and wanted to help others more. Luke socialized, walked, helped with fundraisers and fostered and adopted mostly special needs animals or those mistreated or abused because he said they were a lot like him and not everyone understood them like he did and that he sensed the animals also felt the special connection. . Luke would stay up thru the night feeding animals without moms, help animals thru labor, and hold animals to keep them warm until they took their last breath to let them know someone loved them until the end. Luke was featured on a video and the front page of the paper when he was ten to talk about the shelter, animal adoption and his special connections to animals. Luke volunteers to this day with them doing all the above plus bringing in donations for events and for the animals. When Luke was in 5th grade Luke was bullied again . Ultimately we felt it was best even though Luke only had 6 months of that school left and his friends were there to transfer him to a new school where hopefully he would be accepted for who he was. Luke was accepted by the school and started gaining even more confidence. Kids accepted Luke for the person he was even though he was different. He became even more motivated to help others so that they didn’t have to feel the way he did.. Luke was 9 and found the Miracle League of the Lakeshore a rubberized baseball field for any kids with disabilities. Luke was inspired by others on the committee and started going out into the community to raise awareness. Within two years the committee as a whole raised over 450,000. The Miracle League completed its fifth season and three years ago in June the all accessible playground went up. Luke has recruited players, buddies, and coaches. Luke has helped the ML with fundraisers, walked in the parade with the group to bring awareness, and helped with special needs trick or treat. Luke gained even more confidence and wanted everyone to “see the colors” of individuals like him and sang God Bless America at the Timber Rattler game twice and sang the national Anthem at opening day and ML games to promote the abilities of those with disabilities. Luke has thrown out the first pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers and was the water boy for the Green Bay Packers. He put asides his social and sensory issues to promote the abilities of those with disabilities. Luke found Generations against Bullying. GAB is unique because it trains to put the power to stop bullying in the hands of kids. Luke believes that when others stand up to Bullying lives are saved and bullying is reduced. GAB has peer ambassador programs, brings movies and well known speakers into communities to help stop bullying and reduce suicides. Luke wants to create a safe place for all, a place where there is no fear of being bullied or judged, a world of full inclusion. Luke talks about acceptance, , Autism awareness and bullying in his speeches and has stood up to bullying situations in his school and community. Luke has helped become one of their motivational speakers to help others and increase awareness of being “different”, help reduce the stigma, empower others too and accept not bully the individuals different than them. When Luke speaks individuals come up to Luke, us, and his principal and ask how they can start volunteering or how they can make a difference in someone’s life. Others tell him how inspired they are by him. Luke has even addressed his entire student body and received a standing ovation. He even says in his speeches that he is also a voice for others that are afraid or cannot speak. Luke volunteers because he says that it feels good, that volunteering changes communities, that you make lifelong friendships when you volunteer, people understand others that are different , disabilities and Autism, when they are more educated and see others tell their stories about being different yet the same as them and that if people don’t help their communities/organizations together they can fall apart. Luke jumps in wherever he is needed. He was once part of the YMCA leadership group, , helped clean up the park, did a book drive to help get books in the hands of kids in DC and Virginia, helps with Christmas in July week at the Miracle League field, rings bells and helps with the salvation army toy drive, raised money for the local K-9 unit, gave stuffed dogs to police officers to give to kids they encounter at Christmas and most recently he spends every day being the football manager for the Manitowoc Lincoln Ships football team and 2 years ago managed the 8th grade Chiefs team. Both teams has accepted Luke as one of the team given him jerseys, and even suited him up and run the last touchdown of the season. Luke has played in Special Olympics for the past two years and is medaling in many sports at state level. He raised funds for their run, is part of their athlete council, a leader for healthy Athlete Leader to train to promote wellness to other athletes and is part of the Special Olympics Wisconsin Athlete input council. Luke wants to help Special Olympics also end stigma and end the word, and promote being more accepting to others at state level. About two years ago Luke has also alongside 3 other kids in our community, Jacob Herda, Lia Haile, and Jayle Ziemer started Backpack Buddies where they fill backpacks with essentials and fun things for foster kids in our community, help with the annual foster family picnic,(bring in food and material donations for door prizes) connect foster families to community activities(finding free events in the community like their partnership with our local YMCA), did a transition drive for kids aging out of foster care, raised over 3000.00 dollars and material donations last Christmas so the county could distribute toys to foster families, Just gave another 2000.00 of toys again this year, and have a fund set aside for any needs that may arise that the county can not cover. Most recently providing 3 weighted blankets and car seats for kids in need of them. They just filled more backpacks housed at our county. Even though Luke maintains good grades (A’s and B’s) and has stayed on the honor roll.. Luke has been recognized with many awards since he was 9 like the Helpful Hearts Award, Youth Award for WI Council of Administrators, Youngest Volunteer Wisconsin, Youth Award for Green Bay Volunteer Center/WPS Awards, Wi Rockstar Award, He has received the Prudential Community of Spirit Award, the American Legion Good Deed Award, WI Hero Award, the Gold Presidential Award, Generations Against Bullying Upstander Hero Award, Gambler Hometown Hero, Finalist for the National Youth Activist award for Man Up Against Bullying , Temple Grandin Award, Yes I Can Award, Brewer Community Achiever, the Daily Point of Light Award , Business in Ethics Award by Foundations, JCI WI award, NAMI WI Spark Award, was chosen as an honary parade marshall this year for the Christmas parade and was in the newspaper as one of the top 10 Manitowoc citizens of 2018.. Luke is an inspiration to many he overcomes his challenges and puts his anxieties aside to raise awareness. Luke feels honored to receive these awards but he looks at it as an opportunity to get his word/work out further about acceptance, the organizations he works for, volunteering, Autism Bullying, and abilities of those that are different. Luke says in his speech to not judge, be kind, be humble, everyone has a story and anyone can be the change. Luke hopes others will be inspired and pay it forward even if it is one small act like being nice to someone or accept someone looking left out, someone that is different, or stand up to bullying. Luke uses his Adversities to help others and to build his resiliency for what he experiences in life. Luke has also helped the local firefighters with a boot drive to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy because his dad is affected with this and when his mom was rediagnosed with cancer and a pink tutu club was formed Luke had no problem wearing his pink tutu out in public, at sporting functions to show his support for individuals affected with cancer, and participating in relay for life. He has also helped bring in gift certificates for veterans for date nights because his dad is retired Army. Luke's business cards reads Being humble means recognizing that we are not on this earth to see how important we can become but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others-Gordan Hinkley and I know Luke really believes in this quote because he believes that everyone should be treated equal, be nice to one another and he knows everyone can be that change one small act at a time and even if you are different you can still empower others, advocate, and be a huge change in the world.

Nominated by: Linda Lee