Volunteer Voices

Two Selfless Teens Give Back

Small acts can make a big impact. Tune into the volunteer voices of Shriya Kappagantula and Jack Groseclose, two teens that put others first and are motivated by being helpers. The acts of service by these special young people are paving a path of humility and kindness in our community. 

Meet Shriya Kappagantula

Selfless servant

Shriya Kappagantula didn’t set out to win any awards, she just wanted to help. Hour by hour, Shriya’s time as a helper added up in a big way: in one year, this rising Lakota West High School junior served 238.5 hours as a volunteer. This impressive number of volunteer hours earned her the gold level of the President’s Volunteer Service Award. 

“I wasn’t really expecting to try to receive this award, I just really enjoy volunteering,” Shriya says. “Eventually, the hours just started adding up.”

Shriya comes from a family of volunteers and has been engaged in serving the community as long as she can remember. 

“I’ve been volunteering from a very young age,” Shriya explains. “I’m associated with a temple group. Community service is a really big part of what we value. One of the first things I did as a beginning volunteer was go into a homeless shelter where we made people food. Seeing how much people are in need, and how even a small act that I could do could help them really motivated me to keep going.”

For Shriya, volunteering is fun. Because of her natural interest in science and technology, she responded to a school newsletter listing to help at iSpace, a local nonprofit educational organization focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs for youth. 

“I took a chance at iSpace, and it was really fun there,” Shriya says. “Most of my hours were at iSpace. It’s known as the STEM learning place. I served as an assistant teacher the whole summer, encouraging students to explore different fields of STEM and the different jobs you can do. I basically helped out with whatever the teachers needed.”

“I also volunteered at MidPointe Library. I’ve been volunteering there for the past five years or so,” she adds. 

Many lessons come with 238.5 hours of volunteer service in one year, especially when most of those hours are spent with young children. Shriya says one word rises to the top when she thinks about what she has learned this year—patience.  

“I worked mainly with little kids,” she says with a smile. “I had to explain things to them in a way that they could understand and that could sometimes take a couple of tries.” 

The nature of volunteer work is that it is done for free. The payoff for Shriya comes in the form of the feeling she gets when she sees the impact she is making with her time. She is motivated by a sense of accomplishment and joy. 

“At the end of it all at iSpace, a bunch of kids made me cards, thanking me. That was really sweet of them. Being able to help people helps me to really want to keep coming back,” Shriya says.

While COVID-19 has kept her away from her volunteer spots for the past few months, Shriya is hopeful and excited to get back to work soon. 

“Everyone can make a change through volunteering,” Shriya notes. “It’s really not too much work to take a few hours out of your day to help someone in need. Just a small act can really make a difference.”

Meet Jack Groseclose

Unstoppable spirit

17-year-old Liberty Township resident Jack Groseclose rolls his eyes at his parents, loves the band Coldplay and the color yellow. Despite the challenges of a rare genetic condition called Smith-Kingsmore syndrome (SKS), Jack’s brave and giving spirit is an unstoppable force that is changing the future for those who are growing up like him. 

In May, during the height of the pandemic, Jack participated in a fundraiser for the Smith-Kingsmore Syndrome Foundation (SKSF), a nonprofit organization founded by Jack’s parents, Mike and Kristen Groseclose. Together, the family serves as pioneers and ambassadors as they work to boost awareness of SKS, connect SKS patient families from around the world and promote research and development to change outcomes for children with the condition. 

“We’re a family that believes in giving back, each as we’re able,” says Jack’s dad, Mike Groseclose. 

SKS families united virtually from around the world to share in the Workout of the Day fundraiser. Although Jack couldn’t perform the suggested CrossFit exercises, he discovered a different way to participate. Many children with SKS may not ever be able to walk, but with leg braces, Jack can. Although he does not enjoy it, he walked and even ran for the fundraiser, inspiring families around the globe with hope that their own afflicted children may walk someday. 

“Everyone needs a purpose in order to live a meaningful life and we are grateful that Jack has been able to find his in a way we’d never have dreamed about 17 years ago,” says Jack’s mother, Kristen Groseclose.

Newly discovered in 2013, there is a lot yet to learn about SKS. Only diagnosed two years ago, Jack faces challenges in development, learning, sleep and communication, but with his courageous help, medical personnel at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Liberty Campus are making strides in research. Jack’s responses to medication are helping doctors better prescribe and dose for other, younger patients with the condition.

“It’s scary, but he’s old enough to understand,” explains Mike. “Other people started taking [the drug], and now the dosing is a lot lower and doctors are seeing the positive benefits. They’re not seeing the negative side effects.”

“He knows that all the stuff that he’s doing is for the next generation of kids and babies,” Kristen says. “He wants to help them so that they don’t feel bad. We tell Jack that everybody can make a difference and that he helps the babies.”

“Everyday, Jack faces challenges that are huge,” shares Mike, “but, he faces them with grace and dignity and in a good mood. People fall in love with Jack without him saying a word. I’m always impressed with how he handles challenges.”

August 15

Global Awareness Day 

Smith-Kingsmore Syndrome Foundation

SKSF is sponsoring their first annual Global Awareness Day this August. Learn more about this rare condition and its unique connection to Liberty Township. Show your support for our neighbor, Jack, his family and families like theirs with a donation or the purchase of SKSF merchandise. Hats, tanks and tees with the foundation’s sunny logo are available in the online store: SmithKingsmore.org.

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