Summer Hudish, left, receives a check from MCHS senior Dani Kawcak, during a presentation Wednesday at the Museum of Northwest Colorado. Kawcak, along with three other members of the MCHS Key Club, presented the checks to four local agencies.

Photo by Ben Bulkeley

Summer Hudish, left, receives a check from MCHS senior Dani Kawcak, during a presentation Wednesday at the Museum of Northwest Colorado. Kawcak, along with three other members of the MCHS Key Club, presented the checks to four local agencies.

MCHS Key Club donates money to help pay 2007 graduate's medical bills

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By the numbers

El Pomar grants to local nonprofits:

• $700 to Grand Futures Prevention Coalition

• $1,000 to Craig Mental Health

• $1,800 to Community Budget Center (forwarded onto Summer Hudish to help with her medical bills)

• $1,500 to Moffat County Cancer Society

When Summer Hudish was involved with El Pomar Youth in Community Service Program, her classmates at Moffat County High School looked up to her.

Two years later, they helped look after her.

On Wednesday, the Moffat County High School Key Club and Youth United Way handed out $5,000 in checks to four local agencies at the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

Included in those agencies was the Community Budget Center, which will help pay for Hudish's medical bills.

Hudish, 20, a 2007 MCHS graduate, underwent a liver transplant in February after being diagnosed with Wilson's disease - a rare and potentially fatal disorder.

"It was a great gesture," said Hudish, who said she is close to being back to completely healthy. "I really appreciate everything they did - it will definitely help with medical costs."

Corrie Ponikvar, Youth United Way advisor, said the money was given to the Budget Center because El Pomar could not fund a person, only an organization.

"The Community Budget Center has the longitude to be able to help out one member of the community," she said. "The Key Club and Youth United Way got together and decided they wanted to help Summer as she recovers."

The club made a mission statement and selected the agencies based on certain eligibility standards, Ponikvar said.

Other agencies included the Moffat County Cancer Society, the Craig Mental Health Clinic and Grand Futures Prevention Coalition.

MCHS senior Michelle Hammond, 17, said picking Summer was an easy choice.

"Summer was in EPYCS in high school, and we all looked up to her, so we wanted to give back," Hammond said.

El Pomar, a foundation that gives grants to Colorado nonprofits, donated the money. El Pomar donates money to high schools throughout the state to donate to local charities.

"We are in the first year of a two-year $10,000 grant," Ponikvar said. "And, in order for the Key Club and Youth United Way to access that money, they had to raise $500 of their own."

MCHS senior Dani Kawcak, 17, said the group raised the money in the fall.

"For homecoming week, we sold $500 worth of mums," she said. "Then El Pomar matched our contribution."

Ponikvar said the El Pomar program is a way to get students involved with local nonprofit organizations.

"It's really to encourage participation in the community by volunteering, whether that's donating time, energy and sometimes money, just for nonprofits," Ponikvar said.

Since its inception in 1991, the Service Program has awarded more than $10 million to nonprofit organizations.

Before, El Pomar would donate $7,500 for one year, but the money was spread out from Moffat County to Steamboat Springs, Ponikvar said.

"They changed the structure so now all high schools in the state can participate by applying to El Pomar," she said.

Ponikvar, along with Cindy Morris, Key Club program director, helped the students as they called and interviewed local nonprofits in Craig.

Hammond said she likes the new format more.

"This is nicer because we're able to give more money to fewer agencies," Hammond said. "Then they can give it to people who need it more than others."

The four members of the Key Club in attendance during the presentation of the checks share more than just being seniors in the program. Each joined the club for similar reasons.

"I started with the Key Club because I really like community service," Kawcak said.

Kylie Bauman, 17, is finishing her fourth year in the club before she goes to Mesa State College next year.

"When I was a freshman, I had friends in the Key Club," Bauman said. "Everybody always talked about how much fun it was, so I joined.

"It gives me a chance to interact with people in a positive way."

Erin Urbanoski, 18, agreed with Bauman.

"It's gratifying," she said. "It feels good for the people you're helping, and you feel better when you help out."

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