• Oct. 8, 2021

    Sixth grader honored with NextUp Award for volunteerism

    Audrey WetterauA Boyce Middle School sixth grader was recently recognized for making a difference in the lives of others. Audrey Wetterau was honored with the NextUp Award (12 years and under) for her extraordinary efforts through Socks With A Mission (SWAM).

    The NextUp Awards honors young people who are dedicating their time and talents to making a difference in others’ lives through fundraising, philanthropy, volunteerism, and activism. The awards are hosted by the Blood Science Foundation, philanthropic arm of Vitalant.

    “Each of our NextUp Finalists are the brightest examples of the young people who make our region so special,” Mark Giaquinto, president and CFO of Blood Science Foundation, said. “At the Blood Science Foundation, we’re proud to honor their hard work and can’t wait to see what they do next.”

    Pittsburgh’s Inaugural NextUp Awards Celebration was held on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at the LaMont Restaurant on Mount Washington. Winners in each of three age groups (12 years and under, 13-15 years, and 16-18 years) received $2,500 to further their education or to invest in their philanthropic or charitable programs. The first and second runners up received $500 each for the same purpose.  (Click here to meet the finalists.) 

    Audrey plans to use her award to continue to help others.

    “It was really amazing, and I’m so happy that we were able to get money to help more people,” she said.

    Audrey began SWAM two years ago, as a fourth grader. After learning that socks are among the items most needed by unsheltered people who are homeless and the number one item requested at homeless shelters, Audrey immediately began working on her first sock collection drive and SWAM was established.

    “People experiencing homelessness really need socks, because they often walk miles to just get basic necessities and they have nowhere to wash their socks, so they wear out quickly and that can cause foot health problems,” Audrey said. “Socks are something we take for granted, but people experiencing homelessness don’t.”

    Audrey was 10 years old when she began collecting and distributing socks for those in need. Her advice to other kids is simple, “You’re never too young to start helping people.”

    Since SWAM’s inception, Audrey has raised thousands of dollars and has distributed approximately 30,000 pairs of socks to those experiencing homelessness in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas, including Erie, Youngstown and Wheeling. SWAM distributes socks to dozens of organizations, which have included Light of Life, Family Links, The Blue Kangaroo, Street Moms, Shepard’s Heart and Light in My City.

    Throughout the month of October, Audrey’s school – Boyce Middle School - is celebrating Socktober. A sock collection box is located in the school’s main office for students and staff to drop off new socks. In addition, crazy socks will be sold in the mornings throughout the month for $3 a pair. All profits will be used to purchase socks for local homeless shelters. If you would like to help, visit SWAM’s Amazon Wish List.

    In addition to SWAM and school, Audrey likes to ride her horse, Stanley. She rides competitively in both the American Quarter Horse Association and in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association.

    NextUp Awardees