Each year, United Way’s ELEVATE Awards recognize the next generation of philanthropists, volunteers, and activists in the Central Indiana community. After receiving nearly 100 nominations, the organization has selected 15 finalists for the 2020 awards.
A third of them are Butler graduates. Five alumnae are among the nominees, and winners will be announced at ELEVATE on Saturday, February 29, at Crane Bay Event Center in downtown Indianapolis.
Kelsey Burton ‘06 is one of three nominees for the Nonprofit Professional of the Year. As executive director of Paws and Think, she is always promoting the benefits of dogs. Since joining the local nonprofit in 2016, the Chemistry and Biology graduate has developed numerous programs for her organization’s 130 therapy dogs all over Indianapolis.
“Paws and Think focuses on improving lives through the power of the human/dog connection,” says Burton.
One day a week, she stops by a small office at St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital to catch up with some of her star canines. A recent visit saw one of Paws and Think’s top dogs, the 100-pound Bella. The shaggy, 10-year-old Newfoundland specializes in encouraging children to read. For children who are shy or don’t like reading out loud during school, reading to Bella can help calm the nerves. The pages turn as Bella takes in every line.
Burton says she is honored to be among the 15 ELEVATE finalists because the recognition shows her work has been meaningful to the community.
“We want to bring love, happiness, and comfort to those who need it most,” Burton says, “We know dogs are amazing. They’re non-judgemental and offer unconditional love. So, what better tool than dogs to be able to do those things.”
Sarah Myer ‘06, also among the award nominees, says she’s grateful she decided to stay in Indianapolis after graduating from Butler.
“Indy is a city where you can get connected quickly and make an impact if you are willing to hustle,” says the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Indiana Sports Corp. “Not many cities have that kind of opportunity for young people starting their careers.”
In her role, Myer works to make sure those career opportunities stay in the Circle City. Since 1979, Indiana Sports Corp has helped attract major sporting events to Indianapolis in the form of NCAA basketball tournament games, U.S. Olympic team trials, and, of course, Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. Events co-produced by the nonprofit sports commission have led to more than $4 billion in direct spending in the city.
“Our team helps execute events from start to finish,” Myer says. “And while these events are here, they not only elevate civic pride and have a huge economic impact on our city, but we always find ways to include our youth.”
Emily Shrock ‘09 is nominated for Board Member of the Year for her work with Coburn Place, a local nonprofit that works to empower and house victims of abuse. A Marketing major when she was at Butler, Shrock credits her time at the University for helping her realize “the power of community.”
“While I was on campus, I had the opportunity to take a number of leadership roles through organizations that not only taught me how to lead but instilled in me an even stronger sense of compassion and desire to serve those around me,” she says. “My heart has forever been in serving others, and Butler truly enhanced that longing that has led me to a career in public service.”
As Director of Public Engagement and Programs at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Shrock wanted to maintain that balance of servitude with her professional life. She started at Coburn Place as a student volunteer, and a decade later, she is helping lead the nonprofit into a strong 2020.
Shrock says Coburn Place houses 70 people daily in its Midtown building, but its programming and services reach all over Indianapolis.
Also nominated are Lisa Glavan ‘19 and Molly McDonnell ‘17, who will represent the Roche Diagnostics Young Professionals group for the Employee Resource Group of the Year award.
Burton wasn’t surprised to see so many fellow Butler Bulldogs on the ELEVATE program.
“We all got really good groundwork in college to learn how to make things possible in our community,” she says. “All the time, I find myself very honored to be part of that group—to say I’m a Butler alum.”
Photos and video by Tim Brouk
News Content Manager