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Johnstown teen honored with national award for "Cuddles for Kids'

By: Maria Miller

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - A Johnstown teenager who's been a familiar face in the Johnstown community for nearly 10 years was presented with a national honor on Monday.

Conner Hagins, the founder of the charity Cuddles for Kids, is now in the running to be named one of 10 youth volunteers across the country.

Hagins formed Cuddles for Kids in 2006 when he was only 10 years old.

Since then, the charity has become much more.

Not only does Hagins raise money to buy stuffed animals and toys, he's sent hygiene products to orphanages, helps organizations across the country and overseas and has raised money for local, state and national charities.

"I know when I started this it was something that was really small, and now it's grown to be as big as it is and I don't honestly think I would be here today if it wasn't for the community and all the support I've got," Hagins said.

Hagins was recognized Monday morning in front of his peers at Bishop McCort Catholic High School with the Prudential Spirit of the Community award.

Chosen out of thousands of candidates, Hagins is the only high school student in Pennsylvania to receive the national honor.

"It's a big deal for these children to be exposed at a national level," Douglas Hershberger of Prudential Financial said. "We want to see folks like that be able to get that kind of recognition, and this is good. We're glad that he's been chosen."

"It's truly something special," Hagins said. "I never thought I'd be chosen for a national honor. I always dad it for the love of getting out of everyone you're helping, and I just think it's something special, and I'm glad I can do the little things."

Over the last nine years, it's estimated that Hagins has helped put smiles on more than 85,000 faces.

But he's not as little as he once was. Hagins is a senior at Bishop McCort, and within a month he'll be moving on to college about two hours away, but he said Cuddles for Kids will always be a priority.

"I'm going to be able to come in during breaks and do as much work as I can," Hagins said. "McCort said they will continue to do this and I just hope this is one of the things that stay in the community and always is around."

Hagins will travel to Washington, D.C., next month for a week's worth of seminars, special dinners and meetings with congressional leaders.

He is also in the running to be named one of the top 10 youth volunteers in the country. He'll find out on May 3.

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