‘Little Helper’ receives first Gold Star Award

Sarah Ryan, an 11-year-old from Stephens City, holds up her Gold Star Award given to her by Frederick County Sheriff Lenny Millholland, center, with deputy Jeanine Bowers, left, and Frederick County Fire Chief Dennis Linaburg. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

WINCHESTER – With a number of community service projects already under her belt, 11-year-old Sarah Ryan became the first ever recipient of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office’s Gold Star Award.

Recruiting a little help from her parents, Melissa and Jamie Ryan, Sarah’s collected books, socks, toys and Valentine’s day cards for others through her various projects. She’s organized her efforts under the title “The Little Helpers.”

Sheriff Lenny Millholland presented the Gold Star Award certificate to Sarah at a ceremony on Thursday, along with others at the Public Safety Building who gave her their congratulations. He ran through a list of her projects, from her first book drive in 2014 that collected almost 2,000 books and learning materials to a toy drive to benefit Winchester CCAP around Christmas last year.

“It’s people like you that make our community a wonderful place to live, and we’re very proud of you,” he told her as he handed off the certificate.

Deputy Jeanine Bowers, a D.A.R.E. officer for Frederick County, had taught Sarah at Armel Elementary School. She said Sarah’s mother Melissa Ryan kept her updated on her projects and knew Sarah would be a prime candidate for recognition from the sheriff.

For Sarah’s three annual spring book drives, she’s taken up donations from friends and family, as well as books left in drop-off boxes.

“I’ve always loved reading and, to me, it’s always been really important to have books at home,” she said. “I just kind of thought that it would be good if you could somehow get books to kids that don’t have books immediately at home or maybe somewhere in their neighborhood that they could easily go to.”

She said that in the future, she’d like to have some other members in the Little Helpers. For last year’s Socktober drive, mother Melissa Ryan said the Armel Elementary School SCA voted to help Sarah out, but she hasn’t approached anyone at Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle School yet about her community projects.

Sarah said she’ll probably hold many of her drives yearly.

“A lot of times holidays have to do with it, like with the Valentine’s Day cards,” she said, going on to talk about the excitement and appreciation her efforts met at Spring Arbor of Winchester.

Millholland said the Gold Star Award will recognize community service efforts and could have recipients of any age in the future.

“Too many things go unappreciated, too many people do a lot of positive things and nobody knows about it,” he said.

Sarah and The Little Helpers are on social media at https://twitter.com/01Helpers and http://tiny.cc/x7sdey.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com