CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) – For many children and their families, the Ronald McDonald House is home away from home out of necessity. For one South Jersey teenager, they made it by choice.
Whether it’s cleaning dining room tables or stocking supplies, there isn’t much Zachary Olszewski doesn’t do for the Ronald McDonald House in Camden.
This year, the Audubon High School senior has logged nearly 480 hours of volunteering.
“I wanted to give back more so I decided to ask for volunteer opportunities,” Olszewski said.
When Olszewski was a freshman, he was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, an inner ear condition that causes chronic dizziness.
“Through going to CHOP, many months and many days missing school, I saw the Ronald McDonald House logo and I said, ‘You know what, I want to help out there,’” Olszewski said.
Olszewski joined the house’s Teen Advisory Council and in addition to volunteering, he started organizing fundraising campaigns like the Spare Some Love bowling event.
He leads several other teenagers and together, they bring in more than $50,000 per year.
“He’s quite a different young man than most teenagers,” said Tina Fiorentino, the director of development for the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey. “He actually works two jobs and with the money he was collecting from his paycheck, he was literally going and spending that to buy pantry items here at the house. A pretty remarkable young man.”
So remarkable that this week, Olszewski received a bronze medallion as a finalist for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award – it’s the nation’s largest youth recognition program for volunteering.
Olszewski tries to live by the mantra, “Live to love and love to live.”
“So I always take time for myself to love myself,” he said, “but then I always shed that love on everyone else and make sure that no one leaves me feeling unloved and make sure that everyone leaves happy.”
Olszewski is just getting started making a difference with his life.
Next year, he plans to go to college to study public relations and nonprofit management.