Kochanek wins philanthropy award
Park City High School’s Victoria Kochanek is this year’s Outstanding Youth Volunteer, as recognized by the Utah Nonprofits Association and Utah Society of Fund Raisers. "I was very shocked," Kochanek said, when she learned she’d won. "I figured there were people who had twice the hours and twice the effort put in." Kochanek, a junior, volunteers with at the National Ability Center, helping injured youth with their pool therapy. She was recognized for her labors on Utah Philanthropy Day, Nov. 10, at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City. Kochanek’s mother, Francie, started working at the National Ability Center earlier this year, and Victoria started volunteering this summer.
"We try and focus on what the kid and what the parents would like the child to be able to do," Victoria said. "Some children are physically impaired or they just recently have a disability injury. So we also do therapy in a sense."
Her goal is to teach kids to "break the barrier" out of their comfort level.
Kochanek enjoys creating an individual bond with each student. Learning how to properly motivate and work with a variety of disabilities can be challenging.
With one student, who has autism, Kochanek learned to bribe him with two candies after every successful lesson. "It’s not that he’s difficult to work with, but everyone needs a reward to look forward to," Kochanek said. "After that he would excel, we figured it out perfectly."
Kochanek recounted a 14-year-old at the center who has cerebral palsy. She recently had surgery on her knees, which did not work properly, but now she’s gone from virtually immobile to using a walker, to using a cane. "I swear she doesn’t need a cane any more, she can run backwards, sideways, forwards. It’s miraculous," Kochanek said. "I expect that girl to start sprinting and perhaps even track, as long as she has the right mindset I think she could do it easily." Kochanek is also a member of the PCHS service group Jump In! and trains in martial arts. She’s coordinated the face-painting booth at the NAC open house two years in a row, and decorated the center’s award-winning float in the Park City Fourth of July parade. Kochanek plans to study at the University of Utah. Her philosophy is "you go to college for four years and in those four years you can eventually figure out what interests you. Never think in a sense of a job or a career."
But she expects to become a recreation therapist, and wants to come back to the National Ability Center when she grows up.
Her mother, Francie, said, "What isironic is that Victoriafeels honored and believes that she is the one who isreaping the life-changing benefitwhich came byhelping others.Her experience of volunteering atNAChas completely changed her life."
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