LIVINGSTON, NJ — Two Livingston cousins, Erica and Logan Bushwell, received the West Essex YMCA’s 2015 "Youth of the Year" Award for developing numerous community service projects and rallying dozens of their Livingston friends to help implement them.
Although the West Essex YMCA traditionally honors only one local teen with this award, the staff felt that both of the 17-year-old Livingston High School juniors deserved to be recognized.
Over the past two years, Logan and Erica Bushwell have spearheaded fundraisers and collected food, clothing and children’s sports equipment; given holiday gifts to more than 50 Essex County families in need; and volunteered as assistants at the YMCA's summer program held for teens with autism.
“They understand that not everyone is as fortunate as they are, and they inspired a lot of kids in Livingston to step up and help out,’’ said West Essex YMCA Executive Director Helen Flores. “We don’t normally honor two people, but this has truly been a joint effort.”
The cousins were honored at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges’ 39th annual dinner, held earlier this month at the Hanover Manor in East Hanover.
For Logan Bushwell, the community’s generous response to his family when they lost their home and family dog to fire in 2009 “opened my eyes and motivated me to get involved.”
His mother, Joy, came up with the idea for the Y’s teen-leadership program more than two years ago, but Logan and Erica were the ones who brought the people-power, she said. According to Joy, who was awarded the W. Daniel McCain Award For Youth Development at last year's YMCA dinner, the youth volunteer group has grown from about a dozen to 55 teens thanks to her son and niece's efforts.
“We realize how much of an impact we can have working together,’’ said Erica Bushwell. “It feels good to make a difference.”
Logan Bushwell said he is touched by the gratitude the teens in the autism program show. The participants and volunteers played sports, swam and just hung out together.
“It put such a big smile on their faces,’’ he said.
The cousins both plan to volunteer with the autism program again this summer, and to continue coordinating efforts for people in need during their senior year.
“Every time these two helped people, they knew it felt good, and they’d be looking to do more,’’ Joy Bushwell said.