Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey recognizes Westport student as "golden" boy for community service
Published 6:36 pm, Thursday, December 2, 2010
Westport resident Aidan Reilly, a fifth-grade student at All Saints Catholic School, is the recipient of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Gold Barnum Award for his ongoing can drive service project at his school on behalf of the proposed Science & Energy Park there.
Three children were chosen from the Bridgeport area and surrounding communities, but it was Aidan, an 11-year old Westport resident, who garnered top honors.
He received $1,000 to fund a future community service endeavor and a gold-finish Barnum Award medal. Aidan was honored at a pre-show award ceremony at the opening night performance of "The Greatest Show On Earth," on Oct. 21 at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.
The award aims "to honor and celebrate children who give back to their own communities in creative, innovative ways," according to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's website.
Aidan launched his can drive last May, and continued the project this fall for the new school year.
"I knew my mom was trying to raise money for the Science and Energy Park for our school, and thought `I already recycle cans from home, why not do the same thing except for the whole school,'" Aidan says.
Aidan has set up recycling bins at All Saints, and spends 20 minutes every day after school collecting cans, bottles, and Capri Sun packs.
"It takes a lot of effort to redeem them at the redemption center," he says. "It is a really dirty job, and you cannot be afraid to get messy."
His mother Alison Reilly, along with her husband Brendan, sets her own high standard of service in the home. But she led by example, rather than requiring their son to become involved. In typical mother fashion, she is proud of her son.
"I think I was as surprised as he was," she says of the recognition for Aidan's service. "When he started the project, I thought he would last a few weeks. I am really proud that he is sticking with it, and getting the whole school involved."
Aidan's service to the community continued this summer when he and two other All Saints students traversed Norwalk for up to 20 hours a week in August, handing out fliers promoting the school's participation in the Pepsi Challenge.
And while his achievements are impressive, Reilly reacted to his award in typical 11-year-old fashion.
"I was really happy and did a really bad cartwheel," he says.
Aidan says he intends to put his $1,000 prize toward the Science & Energy Park. In addition, the can drive for the playground will continue as long as he attends All Saints.
Aidan also has a few words of advice for other young people looking to make a difference.
"It takes a lot of effort," he explains. "Try to talk to people, and let them help you improve your project. When you get bored of it, you have to think it is not just about you, it's for your community."