Marguerite Ruth Cox is the sole 2015 Summer of Heroes honoree chosen from the Kenai Peninsula. The announcement was made Sunday at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.
The Alaska Boys & Girls program and Alaska Communications recognized the 18-year-old Nikiski resident for her extensive volunteerism, driven by an unrelenting compassion for improving the lives of humans and animals.
“I was excited. I didn’t think I would win something as big as a scholarship,” Marguerite Cox said. “I was thrilled. I was pretty much speechless.”
Marguerite Cox and five others — all from Anchorage — were chosen from a pool of 60 nominees to receive a $1,500 college scholarship.
The funds were not handed out lightly.
Director of Development and Communications Jennifer Brown said winners have made a lasting impact on their communities. Marguerite Cox was immediately noticed for her unique interests and projects she has carried out on the Kenai Peninsula.
In 2014, Marguerite Cox raised money to purchase masks that can be used on animals for 21 local fire stations.
Brown said, especially with all of the recent fire activity in the state, Marguerite Cox’s realization of community needs access to emergency pet oxygen masks is a detail that went unnoticed by many.
Nikiski Fire Chief James Baisden said the specialized kits, which were purchased from Wag’N 02 Fur Life for $75 a piece, were met with appreciation and surprise by his crew when she first offered them to the station in 2014.
“We do have them on all the medic units,” Baisden said. “We hadn’t thought about it before. We hope we don’t have to use it. It’s not something (animal response) we concentrate on, but they are there if we need it.”
In addition to her animal-related endeavors, in her free time Marguerite Cox regularly volunteers for the Extended Life Animal Sanctuary, Kenai’s Salvation Army, The Central Kenai chapter of Teens Against Tobacco Use, and the non-profit organization she founded, the Domestic Animal Protection League.
Brown said Marguerite Cox’s activities are all the more important because she appeals to her peers. Children will likely be more receptive to the dangers of smoking if they’re hearing it from someone their own age, Brown said.
Director for the Boys and Girls Niksiki site at the Nikiski Middle-High School, Rene Payment, said she nominated Marguerite Cox for her work ethic, academic achievements and her assistance in the community. She said she has known the high school junior since first grade, when Marguerite Cox first started coming to the Boys and Girls Club.
“I felt honored she (Payment) thought highly of me to think that I deserved the award,” Marguerite Cox said.
Marguerite Cox’s mother, Lindy Cox, said she was “so proud” to hear her daughter was named as an honoree. Maurgerite Cox has a tendency toward shyness, and is unlikely to talk about her own achievements in much detail, Lindy Cox said.
She believes her daughter is more active in the community than an average teen of Maurgerite Cox’s age. Lindy Cox has always taught her daughter to give back and help when she can, she said.
The finalists are also identified based on their ambitions and plans for the future, Brown said.
Marguerite Cox said she is currently planning more fundraisers to purchase animal masks for fire stations throughout Alaska. After graduating at the end of the 2015-2016 school year from Nikiski Middle-High School, she plans to attend college somewhere Outside, and pursue a degree in social work, which Brown believes is a perfect fit.
Every year the pool of nominees is growing, Brown said. The program illuminates the amount of children who are out there helping their communities “out of the kindness of their hearts,” she said.
“She’s (Cox) about as cute as a button,” said Director of Development and Communications Jennifer Brown. “We had a lot of fun with her yesterday.”
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org