Exceptional youth in the area will be celebrated this month.

John Craft, superintendent of the Killeen Independent School District, will be the guest speaker at the 20th annual Central Texas Incredible Kids Celebration at 11:30 a.m. April 17 in the Bell County Expo Assembly Hall in Belton.

Local adults and an organization that have made a significant difference in the lives of youth will also be recognized. Receiving the “Outstanding Achievement for Youth” award will be Calvin Darthard Sr., a longtime champion for youth in the Killeen and Central Texas area; Michael Novotny, superintendent of Salado Independent School District and local community leader; Wendell Williams, an advocate for youth and active civic leader of Temple; and the Temple Founder Lions Club for the continuing development of Lions Park and Lion Junction Water Park in Temple. The Central Texas Youth Coalition is a collaboration of the Belton Christian Youth Center, Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Texas, CenTex Chargers Homeschool Sports Association and Ralph Wilson Youth Clubs.

Reservations for the event are available until April 11 online at http://incrediblekidscelebration.com; or by mailing name, address, and phone number plus payment to Incredible Kids Celebration, 304 W. Ave. B, Killeen, Texas 76541, or by calling 254-699-5808, Ext. 102. Tickets are $25 per person; checks should be made payable to Midtown Youth.

Here is a look at the 2019 Incredible Kids who will honored at the event:


Briana Liles is a fourth-grader at Trimmier Elementary School in Killeen ISD. Her parents are William and Christy Liles, and she was nominated by her mentor, Wendy Sledd. Briana was diagnosed with alopecia areata when she was in kindergarten, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. Briana has endured a lot of bullying due to balding on the top of her head. Over time, she has learned to embrace the fact she did not know if her hair would ever return, and has taken advantage of the opportunity to educate others about the condition. Over the last 10 months, Briana has raised more than $2,500 for the Children’s Alopecia Project, a nonprofit that hosts camps for children with alopecia to build their confidence while also educating families. Briana’s largest alopecia fundraiser was at Lemonade Day where she owned and operated her own lemonade stand which she designed. Working a total of 24 hours over two days, Briana raised more than $900. She had to pay back her investors more than $400 for the items purchased for the stand, paid herself a salary of $99 for the 24 hours of work, saved $178 to fund the stand for next year, and was still able to donate $300 to the Children’s Alopecia Project. For her success, which included paying off her initial business debt, Briana was selected as the Fort Hood Area Lemonade Day Entrepreneur of the Year. Briana went on to win National Lemonade Day Entrepreneur of the Year being selected from more than 80,000 child entrepreneurs in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

Briana volunteers in other capacities as well, working with the Salvation Army, Relay for Life, Special Olympics, Communities in Schools, and more. She collected an entire truck bed full of animal supplies valued at $500 which she donated to the local animal shelter. Briana volunteered weekly throughout the summer in local nursing homes playing bingo, painting nails, and just spending time with the elderly. Briana created handmade Valentines for hospitalized veterans and led her school student council to do the same. She has also held fundraisers to donate reusable travel bags full of personal care products, a blanket, and a toy to Salado Circles of Care which cares for children removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. In the last 10 months, she has volunteered more than 700 hours of service earning the bronze, silver, and gold Presidential Volunteer Service Awards.


Jarin Thomas Cole is a senior at Harker Heights High School. His parents are Darron and Tina Cole and he was nominated by his mother, who says he is not only her son, but he is a kind and thoughtful individual, always looking for ways to bring joy and happiness to others. Jarin performs under the name JC Stringz, and has used his gift of music to bless others, often playing for the residents of local nursing homes. He started the Annual Blues Under the Stars Concert in the City of Killeen, getting donations from businesses, friends, and family members. The purpose of the concert is to offer a family-friendly free event for the community. Every November, Jarin plays his music for tips, then donates all of his tips to a community member in need. He has donated to a young family dealing with cancer. He has donated to a young lady who was chosen to perform during a major college football game in Florida so she could afford the trip. Last November, he had his largest fundraiser to date. A fellow senior at his high school was involved in a horrific car accident and was not expected to survive. Not only did Jarin pray for him, but he decided to raise money to help the student’s family during this terrible time. Jarin asked all of his classmates, friends, church family, and all of his social media followers to stop by and contribute to this cause. In 90 minutes, he raised over one thousand dollars. Immediately following the event, Jarin delivered all of the money to the family. The student is still recovering but is expected to return to school soon. Jarin is comfortable with his path and continues to put smiles on the faces of those who follow him through his music. Jarin is also a volunteer musician at his church, playing every Sunday. He hopes to continue performing as he grows in his craft. Spreading joy through the gift of music, Jarin Thomas Cole is truly an incredible kid.


Dorianna Gilbert is a fourth grader at Williams/Ledger Elementary School in Copperas Cove ISD. She was nominated by her principal, Marla Sullivan, and her parents are Derrick and Shannoda Gilbert.

Being the child of two military parents, Dorianna understands what service is. She understands the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. She has participated in numerous veterans-related activities including parades, bell-ringings and wreath-laying ceremonies that honor our service members. Dorianna conducted a Valentines for Veterans project that started in her school and ultimately spread throughout the school district, resulting in more than 1,000 handmade valentines that she and fellow students delivered to veterans at the Central Texas Veterans Hospital and Nursing Home in Temple.

Dorianna’s desire to help others extends beyond veterans as well. After watching her friend being made fun of by other children because she couldn’t read due to dyslexia, she decided to do something about it. She enlisted her parents’ help to research dyslexia so she could go back to school and educate her peers about it. Dorianna went a step further, and decided to host a junior homecoming dance for children ages 3 through 12 to raise money for the school district’s dyslexia program to purchase tools specific to each student to help them read.

With Dorianna as the emcee, the event included music, entertainment, dancing, and refreshments, and featured a red carpet walk as guests entered. The event sold out and had a waiting list. Afterwards, Dorianna presented a check to her school district for nearly $2,000.

Dorianna is a recipient of the bronze, silver and gold levels of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. She has helped wash more than 2,000 pounds of clothing for homeless students, as well as collected school supplies for needy children. She has helped pick up trash, volunteered at the MLK, Jr. walk and 9-11 walk, visited residents at the local nursing home and more.


Devin Hardy is a senior at Copperas Cove High School, and his parents are Kaci Borders and John Lowery. He was nominated by Patricia Thomas of the Noon Exchange Club of Copperas Cove.

Thomas said that in a world built for those with arms, Devin has succeeded and continues to succeed in school, community volunteerism, and dreams.

He is in the top quarter of his class, and has been on the AB honor roll all four years of high school. Devin plays football as the kicker, and soccer as the striker for his school teams. He is also on the school swim team participating in the 50 meter freestyle and 100 meter backstroke. Devin coaches football in the No Limitations program, a program for kids with disabilities to participate in sports. No Limitations presented Devin with a Lifetime Achievement Award for being an outstanding role model for the community.

He has volunteered with Operation Stand Down of Central Texas, a program that helps homeless veterans and their families with some of their basic needs.

He has rung the bell for the Salvation Army at Christmastime for many hours.

Devin serves as a soccer referee for the Cove Parks and Recreation Department, and is certified as a referee with the US Soccer Federation. Devin is currently working to develop a city recreational program to provide sports programming for kids with disabilities.

In Devin’s own words, “Doing something simple in one’s community can make positive changes to make the community better.” He has been accepted to UT Odessa where he plans to study Game Design and Coding.


Allyssa Kimball is a ninth-grader at Copperas Cove High School. Her parents are Elizabeth and Derek Chase, and she was nominated by her principal, Miguel Timarky. Allyssa is heavily involved in Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful, and has participated in clean-up projects such as the Great Texas Trash-Off and the Texas Waterway Clean-Up.

Allyssa also organized a used marker and broken crayon drive in her school district. Within three months, she had collected more than 10,000 markers that she recycled through the Crayola ColorCycle project. She melted the broken crayons and filled cookie tins to create specially-shaped new crayons. Allyssa used this technique in her booth at the annual city Eco-Harvest event, where she had a constant line of children wanting to choose their own crayons. Allyssa continues to visit schools to pick up markers and crayons to be recycled, as well as visiting after-school programs to teach children the importance of recycling.

Allyssa organized a “Keep Your Butts in the Car” clean-up at the request of the deputy city fire chief, lining up volunteers to go to the city’s public bus stops and pick up all of the discarded cigarette butts. She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty when it comes to a cause she believes in.

Another large project Allyssa believes in is developing a dog park in Copperas Cove. Allyssa teamed up with another teen and presented a budget she had researched to city officials who agreed to donate an acre of land to the project if the teens could raise $65,000 for it. Allyssa is researching grant opportunities and planning fundraisers, and most recently chaired the Krist Kindl Charity Pageant which raised $3,500. Allyssa has also participated in events to raise money for the Copperas Cove Animal Shelter, school dyslexia programs, and laundry and school supplies for the homeless. She has participated in book distribution for children at Christmas, bell ringing for the Salvation Army, Relay for Life, and more. With her senior Girl Scout troop, Allyssa has made animal toys for the animal shelter, welcomed new teachers with a breakfast, and helped build little libraries to set up outside schools. She also participates in a number of service projects with her church. In the last 10 months, Allyssa has accrued more than 500 hours of service in her community.


Vaughn is a fifth-grade student at Western Hills Elementary School in Temple, where he serves on the color guard. His parents are Michael and Angela McQuiston, and he was nominated by his school counselor, Courtney Macal, and his principal, Kathy Cook. Vaughn was elected to serve as a “house prefect” this year, a new program where student leaders meet weekly with administrators to share ideas on ways to improve the school. At his school, Vaughn also serves as a morning greeter and new student tour guide and reads to younger students.

Vaughn is actively involved in his school’s Junior Master Gardener Club; where they grow and harvest herbs and vegetables to sell at the local farmer’s market. He joined the club when he was in second grade, and has not missed a single weekly meeting or monthly workday. Vaughn earned a Bronze Medal President’s Volunteer Service Award for his hours of service in the garden.

Vaughn has been in Boy Scouts for five years, and one of his favorite things to do with his troop is participate in the Samaritan’s Purse “Operation Christmas Child” shoebox ministry where they fill a shoebox with hygiene items and small toys to send to impoverished children around the world. Vaughn also volunteers every other Saturday morning to prepare and serve breakfast to the homeless at Feed My Sheep.


Ruth Ann Lawson is a senior at Belton New Tech High School at Waskow. Her parents are Michael and Myriam Lawson, and she was nominated by her principal, Ben Smith.

Smith said Ruth has exhibited exceptional leadership in numerous capacities, which have all had an enormous impact on the growth and success of their school. Ruth has a passion for serving others and has clocked more than 1,500 hours of community service locally, regionally and globally. Ask any student or teacher at New Tech what words best describes Ruth and you will hear “giving, selfless, friend to all” over and over again. Ruth has led food packaging campaigns for hurricane victims in Haiti, Puerto Rico and Houston. She has organized numerous school events such as our new student orientation, fundraisers, school dances, homecoming and prom. This year, Ruth and another student felt a strong need to provide a campus clothing and food pantry for students. She developed a communications plan to reach out to parents and community members. Now, “Threads” is known by our student body as a safe place to go if they need something to wear and/or eat at no cost. Ruth has also volunteered at local events such as elementary carnivals, gift wrapping, elementary teaching assistant, dinner server at senior centers, highway trash pick-up, Hope for the Hungry 5K races and Vacation Bible School.


Kelby Kosel is a homeschooled senior. Her mother is Caroline Hoelscher, and she was nominated by Kimberley Clawson, a professor at the Texas Bioscience Institute where Kelby attends dual credit classes. This year, Kelby has served as a TBI Ambassador. The ambassadors assist with student recruitment events, student achievement ceremonies, and the annual Spring Fling event. Clawson said Kelby is an outgoing, motivated and hardworking student.

She decided to forego her last two years of athletic eligibility so she could pursue her academic career and focus more on community service. She has served 560 volunteer hours at the VA hospital, 100 volunteer hours as a Heart of Texas Fair and Rodeo Sweetheart and over 500 volunteer hours at her church. Kelby is a ministry song leader at her church, and has recently dedicated time to growing the youth program by assisting in worship services specifically for the youth. As a youth leader for her Diocese, she assists the coordinators at the annual Youth Conference ministering to over 3,000 teens in the area. Kelby is a member of the Bell County Master Gardeners, and has given 100 hours of community service through the Junior Master Gardener program, helping to establish and grow gardens at two local elementary schools. These children — many of whom are economically disadvantaged — were taught how to grow and harvest their own fruits and vegetables, knowledge they can use to provide for themselves and their families in the future.

Last summer, she was chosen to be a laboratory intern at Baylor Scott & White. Kelby did a research project investigating the protective effects of dopamine for its effects against oxidative stress-induced blood brain barrier dysfunction, which is a common problem following traumatic brain injury. Kelby’s research has formed the basis of research testing being done by a current neurosurgery resident. Kelby has had the opportunity to present her research at local, state and national levels and will be presenting at the Experimental Biology International Conference in Orlando later this month.


Caleb Marek is in the eighth grade at Providence Preparatory School in Belton. He was nominated by his teacher, Patricia Cummins, and his parents are Susie and David Marek. Mrs. Cummins says perhaps Celeb’s best gift is his ability to mentor others. Caleb has helped coach Upwards Basketball, has worked with IMPACT back-yard Bible clubs, and serves in child care at his church. When Caleb was 10 years old, he launched a fundraiser selling handmade bracelets to raise money for a friend’s chemotherapy treatments and travel expenses. He also raised $900 to fight sarcoma cancer.

Caleb wrote a book expressing how he admired his big brother Logan’s contributions in making him a better person. In Through the Eyes of a Sibling with Autism, he describes how important each individual is within a family. Logan taught him to be a positive influence on younger children. Caleb has spent an extraordinary amount of time helping others with special needs. For the past several years, Caleb has worked for special needs children during the Santa Pancake Breakfast, helping to facilitate a holiday crafts table. All proceeds from this fundraiser benefit the Children’s Special Needs Network.

Caleb assists with the annual Downs but Not Out Walk in Heritage Park to advocate awareness for those born with Down Syndrome. He helps with registration, hands out water bottles to walkers, and provides games for children. Caleb has also spent numerous hours helping with the annual Elks Lodge Easter Egg Hunt, where 400 special needs children and their families will participate. Caleb also encourages his friends to help out, and brought ten friends with him last year. Caleb has participated several years during “Night to Shine,” an unforgettable prom night experience for people with special needs sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, and attends special training necessary to lead different activities.


Christopher Johnson is a sophomore taking classes from home through a virtual public school called the Texas Connections Academy. His parents are Timothy and Teresa Johnson, and he was nominated by the CenTex Christian Homeschool Co-op Coordinator Traci Fulmer.

Fulmer says that Christopher is an all-around amazing young man. He serves in his community, serves outside of his community, leads in his church, and is an exemplary student. Christopher serves with in the community at Ralph Wilson Youth Clubs. He attends each Wednesday afternoon and leads a group of kids in Bible stories, games, and other activities, and coordinates a group of teens to assist. He spends countless hours training and the first two weeks of each summer serving in Impact Backyard Bible Clubs through Temple Bible Church. For the past several years, he has led his team well.

Christopher also helps outside of his community, by devoting his spring break each year to serve at Mission G. This group takes the concept of the Bible clubs on the road to Galveston. During this time, the group also serves in soup kitchens and shelters.

Christopher has long participated in the youth band at Temple Bible Church, and has been leading the group for the past several months, selecting songs, organizing the band, formulating prayers, and leading worship for more than 200 students each week.

Christopher is an exemplary student and has always been a leader within the homeschool community, and this year worked with his classmates to put together a homeschool prom. He serves with several community activities and fundraisers for the homeschool group. His natural exuberance and his infectious laughter makes everyone feel at ease around him.

This summer, Christopher will take his leadership skills on the road again to New York where he will serve at the New York School of Urban Ministry to provide ESL training and student activities for new immigrant families.

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