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An Elizabethtown third-grader is being honored by state officials for his volunteer work and optimistic attitude in the face of his own challenges.
Shawn Aberl II has been selected to receive the Kentucky Governor’s Ambassador Award for Volunteer Service for his work with the Save-A-Limb Bike Ride in Maryland.
The ride helps support the efforts of Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, to prevent limbs from being amputated when they can be saved.
The hospital helped the Aberl family after Shawn was diagnosed with popliteal pterygium syndrome after birth. The condition typically results in death before birth and for Shawn has resulted in a cleft lip and a deformed leg that have taken more than 60 surgeries to give him the ability to run and jump.
Shawn’s family raised $3,360 for last fall’s ride and drew volunteers from multiple states to join the his volunteer team, Team Superhero.
“It’s just good to know that they’re my friends in volunteering,” he said.
Shawn and his family have helped raise money and volunteered to help with the ride
“I just want to get out there and help other kids and volunteer,” he said. “It makes me feel happy.”
There are multiple categories in which state residents can be honored by the governor’s office. The only category in which Shawn qualified was the ambassador award because his family volunteers outside the state.
The Aberl family plans to attend and awards ceremony in June at the Governor’s Mansion.
The family found out about Shawn’s selection two weeks ago and only recently was allowed to share the news.
His mother, Jennifer Aberl, was told by a co-worker with a connection to the awards that she should make sure Shawn was nominated because few nominations measured up to Shawn’s story.
Jennifer Aberl put together her son’s nomination. She got a call months later from a representative of the board telling her Shawn had won.
“She said his nomination was the only one that really got to her,” she said.
Shawn had forgotten that he had been nominated by the time he learned he won. Now, he can’t wait to meet the governor.
“I felt excited,” he said. “I’ve never won before.”
He hopes winning the award attracts more attention to Save-A-Limb.
Shawn’s father, Shawn Aberl, said the boy is doing well. He is active in Boy Scouts and is in accelerated reading at New Highland Elementary School.
He said his family saw the shortcomings of some insurance companies when his son was born because of quality insurance available to him and his wife through their military careers.
“We’re very proud of him,” he said. “He has always been vocal about his condition and how to cope.”
Aberl family members already are making plans for this year’s fundraiser.
Shawn’s donation page, www.savealimbride.kin
tera.org/superhero, is expected to be ready later this month to accept donations for the upcoming event.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.