The second annual Carol Van Andel Angel of Excellence dinner and award presentation took place on April 17, 2014. The event, hosted by Van Andel Institute (VAI), honored individuals who have made a significant contribution to the Institute through volunteer service, philanthropy, special event support, innovation or scientific support.
This year the event, hosted by Carol Van Andel and VAI's Board of Governors, honored the efforts of WOTV 4's Maranda, and four students from Forest Hills Central High School who raised more than $100,000 to benefit the Institute's biomedical research and science education programs. Van Andel was instrumental in the creation of this community appreciation event and believes the Institute has a responsibility to honor the accomplishments of those who give of their time and talents to benefit advancements in human health.
"The Angel of Excellence Award is an event that allows us to highlight the efforts of some of Van Andel Institute's most dedicated supporters," said Van Andel. "It's truly amazing how many wonderful, talented, driven people we have in our community, and this event is our way of celebrating their accomplishments."
Lori "Maranda" Cook, host of Maranda Where You Live on WOTV 4, is a strident supporter of VAI's mission, and utilizes her influence as a broadcaster to help support biomedical research and science education programs at VAI. Maranda is also an advocate for Purple Community®, Van Andel Institute's grassroots fundraising and awareness initiative. Through her close partnership with Purple Community Maranda has empowered thousands of individuals to volunteer and contribute to community-based causes.
Forest Hills Central High School seniors Bella Fiorenzo, Mariah Otolski, Sydney Vinton and Allie Wittenbach began fundraising for cancer and disease research when they were in eighth grade. After meeting with VAI's founding Research Director, Dr. George Vande Woude, the four young women decided that they would try to raise $100,000 before they graduated high school. The four students have raised $105,962 to date with the help of Purple Community, through a series of elaborate, often school-wide events.
Van Andel is amazed by the spirit and determination of the students and is equally impressed by the outpouring of support the girls have received from their fellow students, teachers and principal.
"These young women are leaders for today and for the next generation," said Van Andel. "Bella, Mariah, Sydney and Allie made a commitment to raise funds to benefit cancer and disease research, and not only did they keep that commitment, they inspired their whole community to help them surpass their goal."