Justin Thran receives Jefferson Award | RecordCourier.com
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Justin Thran receives Jefferson Award

by Linda Hiller

Justin Thran received his Jefferson Award medallion Friday in a gala lunch ceremony attended by Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin, area politicians and on-air television news broadcasters from one of the award’s area sponsors, KTVN News Channel 2 in Reno.

The awards ceremony took place at the Reno Hilton, where Thran and four other Jefferson Award recipients were formally recognized for their charity and volunteer work throughout Northern Nevada.

The Smith Valley 15-year-old is known for his philanthropy with area food drives, from the age of about 12 when he brought his first donation to the “Drive-by Food Drive,” sponsored and staffed by personnel from the Reno television station, with proceeds going to the Northern Nevada Food Bank.

Since then, he has donated more than $19,000 to feed the hungry, the money coming from proceeds of his birdhouse and bird feeder business, with sales at area craft shows.

Justin was presented his Jefferson Award by KTVN sports anchor Dan Armolea, who said that without the young man’s involvement in the drive-by food drive, it wouldn’t have been such a success over the years.

n The process. Food donated to the Northern Nevada Food Bank finds its way to dozens of agencies in Northern Nevada, including the Carson Valley Community Food Closet, according to Cherie Jamason, director of the Reno-based NNFB.

Representatives from the two food banks – Diane Malone, director of the Carson Valley organization; director Jamason and development officer Julia Jeffers, both of the Northern Nevada Food Bank – expressed their appreciation and admiration to Justin for his generosity.

“We’re just pretty proud of Justin and very grateful for the support he’s given us,” said Malone. “During our rubber duck race, which is coming up in June, he donates his birdhouses for prizes and at the Christmas craft show he donates the proceeds from his booth to us.”

“It is astounding to us how much Justin has given to us over the years,” Jamason said. “We serve 83 agencies in Northern Nevada and all the way into Susanville, so a lot of people are the beneficiaries. It’s something unusual to find a teen-ager in his position,” she said. “I know kids, (she and her husband have 10 children between them), and he’s a remarkable young man.”

News anchor Karen Reuter said the journey to find the top five people worthy of receiving the yearly award was tough, considering that more than 60 people had been nominated this year – more than ever before.

In his 7-1/2 minute acceptance speech, Justin said he could relate to all four of the other award recipients. He then individually thanked and acknowledged each of them.

“His speech was so wonderful,” Malone said. “He took the time to congratulate the other recipients, and I also think his dad (Bob Thran) needs to be commended because he has done such a marvelous job with that boy.”

The other Jefferson Award recipients were Wanda Smartt, who volunteers within Reno’s legal system to aid those without adequate funds and education; Nicole Bishop, a Reed High School senior who volunteers to bring anti-drug and anti-alcohol information to her peers; Ray McCutcheon, volunteer supervisor with the Lyon County Animal Shelter; and Mary Hansen, a Sun Valley volunteer who serves on many boards and organizations in that community.

“I don’t like to talk about what I’ve done,” Justin said in his speech. “None of it would have happened without the help of other people,” he said as he thanked the people at Channel 2, broadcaster Debora Majors from radio station Sunny 106.9 and The Record-Courier for their support.

“My dad always tells me, ‘Never use your charity work for personal gain – people will respect you more if you do it for the right reasons,'” Justin said to the crowd. “I’m just the middle man – there are a lot of other kids out there doing good things, too.”

Douglas High School 1991 graduate Brian Hickey, an anchor/reporter from the television station, joined Armolea and the rest of Justin’s guests for lunch. The other main sponsor of the Jefferson Awards, Nevada Bell, was represented by Dick Bostdorff, vice president and general manager.

“On behalf of the nearly 1,000 friends and neighbors who work with us here at Nevada Bell, we want to congratulate all the award winners,” he said.

News Channel 2 KTVN taped the awards ceremony for the 1999 Jefferson Awards, and will air it at 8 p.m. March 27 on Channel 2.