A 10-year-old Corona del Mar boy has been honored with a Daily Point of Light award from former President George H. Bush.
Vanis Buckholz, who created the Re “Cycle” er business at age 7, said he received the hand-signed letter and award from Bush on Monday.
“The award came in the mail and it was addressed to me,” Vanis said in an email. “When I opened it I was shocked. I did not know I was nominated, but my parents did and they just did not tell me. I am really, really happy and can’t even believe it.”
The Daily Point of Light Award “honors individuals and groups creating meaningful change in communities across America,” according the Points of Light website. Bush established the award, which honors one volunteer or volunteer effort each weekday, with the goal of solving community problems through service.
“During his presidency, President Bush distributed 1,020 Daily Point of Light Awards, placing volunteer service at the top of his agenda,” the website states. “President Bush continues to sign all of the awards today.”
The organization and award derive their name from Bush’s famous speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans when he accepted the presidential nomination and said that the nation’s volunteers were “a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” The Points of Light Foundation was founded in 1990 “to encourage and empower the spirit of service,” its website states, and Bush currently serves as honorary chairman of the board.
Vanis, who is in fourth grade at Harbor View, said he launched the Re “Cycle” business after learning about ecology on Earth Day. He began collecting his family’s recycling, then friends’ and neighbors’ and now has a regular route that collects recycling at the OASIS Senior Center, the Corona del Mar post office, private homes and several local businesses.
Vanis and his parents, Dave and Evie Buckholz, help him drive the collected recyclables every few weeks to the OC Recycling in Santa Ana, and Vanis then donates 25 percent of his proceeds to the Project Hope Alliance. Vanis said he wanted to help the organization, which helps homeless children, because as a kid he wanted to help other kids. To date, he’s contributed more than $1,000 to the organization.
The Project Hope Alliance nominated Vanis for the Daily Point of Light award.
“You are an awesome kid and we are blessed to have your support in our mission to end the cycle of poverty for children in Orange County through education and family stability,” Jennifer Friend, executive director of the organization, told Vanis in an email.
Friend said in an interview that she nominated Vanis about 60 days ago.
“Here is a little boy who figured out how to help at the age of 7,” she said. “It sort of eliminates all our excuses as adults. We can look at what Vanis is doing and what our business communities could do. He is making an impact in so many ways.”
Dave Buckholz said he gave Vanis the letter, and he smiled the entire time he read it.
“He did not know who it was from or what ‘Points of Light’ was,” Buckholz said in an email. “It wasn’t until he saw the signature at the bottom and read the words ’41st President’ did he start to understand why all the rest of us where so excited.”
His grandparents are visiting, Buckholz said and when his grandmother, Oma, explained who Bush is, “Vanis smiled so big I thought more of his loose teeth would just fall out.” Then he jumped up and did a fist pump.
“Within minutes after the big news Vanis reminded me that it was Monday and he had to go down to the CdM post office and pick up a load their recyclables,” Buckholz said. “He didn’t miss a beat.”
The letter, written on George Bush stationery with a gold seal, congratulated Vanis and praised his service.
“Your efforts are a remarkable example of the generosity and compassion that make our communities stronger and better,” the letter states. “Thank you for being a shining point in the lives of the people of America and for helping to shape a better tomorrow for our nation.”
In January, Vanis made a presentation about his business to the Newport Beach City Council; read our story here. In February, Mayor Keith Curry called out Vanis during his speech at the annual Mayor’s Dinner event, saying he was “an example and inspiration to all of us.”
“Everyone in Newport Beach is very proud of Vanis,” Curry said in an email. “He is an example to all of us of the value of service and the importance being engaged in the community. This is a well deserved award in recognition of his initiative.”
Vanis plans to have his Daily Point of Light award framed so he can place it in his room next to a pin and letter from Mayor Curry, Buckholz said.
Photo courtesy of the Buckholz family.