FAIRBANKS — The usually quiet 28-year-old youth advocate Bryan Whitten struggled being the center of attention as he accepted the Soupy Award from the Stone Soup Group on Wednesday afternoon at Access Alaska.
Kelly Donnelly, executive director of the yStone Soup Group, said Whitten’s nomination “knocked their socks off.” The statewide family agency nonprofit supports families caring for children and youths with special needs. The award is presented to someone, a business or organization that makes a significant difference for the people they serve.
Whitten, a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) member from Harrisonburg, Va., is starting his second year of service in Fairbanks. He will be running a tutoring progam at Access Alaska and setting up a mentoring program once the tutoring gets underway.
“I came up a couple of years ago,” Whitten said. “I wanted to see Alaska and thought VISTA was the way to do it.”
He spent his first year of service sharing his passion for music with homeless youths at Street Outreach and Advocacy Program. He collected guitars donated from area businesses to offer guitar lessons to an ever increasing group of Fairbanks youths through the Star of the North Career Education Center and Access Alaska.
With his return to Alaska for another year of service with VISTA, Carta Moulton, Witten’s local VISITA leader, wanted to bring recognition to the dedicated volunteer.
At the ceremony recognizing Whitten, Moulton expressed how he is “so impassioned and so interested in the fate of the youths he works with.”
“His first year here with VISTA, wasn’t an easy year,” Moulton continued. “To come back up here and have another year to work with an organization that he really believes in and to work for a cause he really believes in; that really impressed me.”
Whitten said he appreciated the recognition but was quick to share it with everyone on hand. “I’m very lucky to work with so many people here who make wonderful contributions every day.” he said.