Merrimack girl named a top volunteer in New Hampshire

CONCORD – Emma Williams, 17, of Merrimack, was named one of New Hampshire’s top two youth volunteers of 2016 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.

Williams was nominated by Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua.

The award, now in its 21st year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Williams, a senior at Bishop Guertin High School, began organizing an annual basketball tournament in 2011 to raise money to provide Christmas gifts for families in need in her community. As a member of her school’s service group in eighth grade, Williams was challenged by the club’s adviser to think of ways to raise money for charity. At the time, she was an avid basketball player, so it didn’t take too long for her to propose a fundraising "Heart to Hoops" basketball tournament.

After obtaining permission to use the school gym for a weekend in November, Williams reached out to coaches and recruited eight teams, and then, with the help of her father, lined up referees. The teams all paid an entrance fee to play in the tournament, and additional money was raised by selling tickets to spectators, and conducting a raffle and shooting competitions.

Williams also encouraged spectators to bring canned food to the tournament, which was donated to charity.

Williams’ annual tournaments have raised more than $8,000, enough to brighten the holidays of 80 families in the area.

"My favorite part is the kids," she said. "It’s amazing to see young basketball players become excited about doing something they love while making a difference in the world."

As a state honoree, Williams will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expenses-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where she will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2016.

For more information about all of this year’s Prudential Spirit of Community state honorees and "distinguished finalists," visit spirit.prudential.com or nassp.org/spirit.