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Housing activist is top winner at Volvo for Life Awards

Notes from Rita F. Catinella, Associate Editor


From left to right: Eunice Kennedy Shriver, judge; Robert Young, Volvo for Life Awards Grand Winner; Bill Bradley, judge; Dr. Jane Goodall, judge; Pam Stack, Volvo for Life Awards Top Three Hero; Robert Hughes, Volvo for Life Awards Charter Hero; Hank Aaron, judge; Hans Olov Olsson, President and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation; Bao Xiong, Volvo for Life Awards Top Three Hero; Harold Overmann, Volvo for Life Awards Charter Hero; Maya Lin, judge; Joshua Marcus, Volvo for Life Awards Charter Hero.

Musical guest The Wallflowers.
Photo by Randi Greenberg.

Times Square was filled with the sounds and sights of the ceremony.
Photo by Randi Greenberg.

RECORD was in attendance for the first-ever Volvo for Life Awards Ceremony, held April 16th in Times Square, New York City. The Swedish car company threw an all-out event at Times Square Studios, including three mini-concerts to honor three of the nation's top "hometown" heroes, such as Robert Young, a man who has dedicated his life to helping impoverished Native Americans build energy-efficient housing out of straw bales. The event also honored a mother of six who volunteers her time to provide job placement and skills assistance to Hmong refugee women in Wausau, Wis., a domestic abuse survivor who is one of the nation's leading advocates against family violence, a New Yorker who mentors girls whose mothers have died, and a seven-year old with cancer who has raised over $60,000 for cancer-related causes from her lemonade stand.

Hosted by actor Jim Belushi, the awards presenters included Hank Aaron, Bill Bradley, Dr. Jane Goodall, Maya Lin, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Each of the three top winners of the night received a $10,000 award plus a $50,000 donation to the charity of their choice. The final award — a new Volvo every three years, for the rest of the winner's life— was also given to Young.

While coming down a staircase that was apparently off-limits to media, RECORD's own Randi Greenberg and I bumped into the second musical guest of the night— the band The Wallflowers (led by Bob Dylan's strikingly handsome son Jakob). The other musical guests included Tony award-winning artist Heather Headley, and Los Lobos.

According to Volvo for Life juror, architect, and artist Maya Lin, "A hero is a person who, oftentimes against adversity, is willing to give their wisdom, their strength and their heart for the benefit of others." It was certainly the sort of evening that left you inspired by the powerful effect one person can have on society.