By James Niedzinski
---- — LONDONDERRY — When Katie Sullivan made a promise to herself two years ago to give back to the community, she had no idea how far it would go.
Two years ago, about 14 students met with Sullivan, an assistant principal at Londonderry High School, to start volunteering in the community.
Now, the group called Pay It Forward has about 20 members, and keeps growing. Even after students graduate from the high school and head off to college, some come back to continue to volunteer with the program, Sullivan said.
On any given Saturday, you can find the group doing volunteer work across the state. The group had humble beginnings, but soon snowballed into something much larger, Sullivan said.
From cancer walks and hosting breakfast for veterans to car washes and bracelet making, Pay It Forward members have had no trouble finding worthwhile projects.
Volunteering acted as a virus, infecting many students throughout the school. Chantal Reid, a 16-year-old junior, said she got in contact with the group when one of her friends was involved the previous year.
“It’s a bit of a confidence boost,” she said. “It feels really good to actually know you are helping people who really need it.”
Now, the group has been contacted by the Driving Toward Zero Coalition. Including officials from the state Department of Transportation, the state Department Health and Human Services, the state Department of Safety and other groups, the coalition aims to reduce the number of driving deaths and injuries in New Hampshire.
The coalition contacted Wedü, an advertising company, to help spread the word about safe driving.
Pay It Forward members recently were inducted as junior ambassadors for Driving Toward Zero. Volunteers were educated about the dangers of distracted driving, speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol.
“We want to get the message out to kids as early as possible,” said Kim Griswold, Wedü’s vice president of client strategy and planning. “Teenagers are more receptive to people in their own age group.”
Griswold said Driving Toward Zero is a grassroots campaign. Pay It Forward members must not only inform others about safe driving, but practice it as well.
The School Board and town officials have been big supporters of Pay It Forward. A School Board member once saw them eating out after volunteering and paid for their meals, Sullivan said.
“It’s really amazing what the kids do,” Sullivan said. “They pay for mostly everything out of their own pocket, and have spent countless weekends helping out others.”
For more information on driving statistics and Driving Toward Zero, visit nhdrivingtowardzero.com.