Health Team

Chapel Hill teen recognized for creating nonprofit to help others

Inspired by struggles with her own medical condition, 14-year-old Leanne Joyce founded a nonprofit to help other teens and kids who have to spend time in hospitals.

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Fourteen-year-old Leanne Joyce of Chapel Hill isn't surfing Internet sites – she’s creating them.

The teen has a congenital heart defect called aortic stenosis. She was in a hospital for a heart test when inspiration struck.

“While I was waiting for test results, a group of volunteers gave me a gift, and it made me feel real good about myself,” she said. “I just forgot about all the anxiety I had.”

She wanted to do the same thing for other hospitalized children and teens, so she started a nonprofit organization called Positive Impact for Kids and created a website for it. The organization aims to improve the lives of teens and children undergoing medical treatment.

For her work, Joyce has been named one of two youth volunteers in North Carolina to win the Prudential Spirit of Community Award. The award is given yearly to 100 outstanding young volunteers across the country.

Joyce’s nonprofit has raised about $22,000 since 2011.

“This past year, we were given a $5,000 Safeway grant, and so we gave back to hospitals in the Safeway communities,” she said.

Joyce works with child life specialists in pediatric units. Often, she sends gift cards, movies and video games, but most of them also request $300 iPad Minis.

“The child life specialists use iPad Minis for education on future procedures and treatments and education for school work if they're in the hospital for a long time,” Joyce said. “Depending on where they use it in the hospital, each one can affect over 9,000 kids a year.”

Joyce has spread her gifts among 18 hospitals across 15 states.

She will receive the award in Washington, D.C., in May. The award includes $1,000 for her and the chance to win $5,000 more for her charity.

“I was shocked,” she said of the recognition. “I applied for it the last year too, but I had just started.”

North Carolina’s other youth winner is 15-year-old Molly Paul of Raleigh, who operates an adoption agency for unwanted pet turtles. She also makes and sells soap products to support native turtles, their habitat and conservation education.


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