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Marisa Grimes of Ocean View, Delaware: Olympic Torch Relay

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Marisa Grimes has been volunteering since she was 4, when her mother took her to a run for ALS. The youngster served water to the competitors.

Grimes, now a junior at Auburn University, has continued to serve others through a number of philanthropic pursuits, including helping children in Kenya and Ghana.

Thanks to her dedication to community service, Grimes was picked to take part in the torch relay before the Summer Olympic Games in London. Grimes, a resident of Ocean View, was one of 22 people to be chosen through the Coca-Cola Live Positively campaign, which allowed her this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“It’s surreal,” she says. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. It’s going to rank up there on my list of achievements.”

And those achievements are rather impressive. After tornadoes devastated parts of Alabama in 2011, Grimes and her college roommate organized an event through Facebook called All in for Alabama. They set up collection points in six different states, then drove a moving van to pick up donations. They delivered a truck full of furniture, clothing and non-perishable food to survivors.

While serving as president of a volunteer group in high school, Grimes helped organize Operation Hope, which raised money to buy uniforms for 400 school children in Kenya.

“We’ve all been blessed,” she says. “We’ve never had to go without something.”

Grimes’ biggest project began in September 2008, when she traveled with 50 other students to Ghana. There she worked 25 days in an orphanage called Bright Future. Her outlook on life changed, Grimes, with two friends, started a nonprofit called Building Bright Future.

The organization continues to raise money for food, medical care and the education of children at Bright Future. Grimes returned to Ghana last spring. “This is my passion,” she says. “It’s what pushed me ahead and got me into volunteering.”

In a nomination letter for the Live Positively contest, a friend wrote: “Philanthropy really is the ability to instill hope into the hopeless—that is Marisa Grimes’ gift. She does this at every turn along her journey.”

Buildingbrightfuture.org, 258-6982    —Drew Ostroski

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