UPDATE - Last week Jessica Carscadden learned that she was the winner of the $50,000 Peace First Prize for her stuffed animal campaign. She had been one of 50 finalists selected. The award is a two-year fellowship to invest in her leadership as a national peace leader. It will include her traveling around the country to speak with community leaders on how to make a difference in the world, her mother said.
This is in addition to the $1,000 Kohl's scholarship mentioned in this story, which first appeared in late August.
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
A Monterey Ridge Elementary fifth-grader has earned a $1,000 college scholarship for her philanthropic efforts.
Jessica Carscadden, 10, is among almost 200 regional winners in the Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program that over the past 13 years has honored more than 19,000 youths and distributed more than $3.9 million in scholarships and prizes.
The daughter of 4S Ranch residents Kathleen and Bob Carscadden was selected from among more than 35,000 nominees in this year’s program.
“It’s cool,” Jessica said, who was honored for her We Care Bears project that since 2011 has collected around 4,000 new and gently used stuffed animals. The toys have been given to the Rancho Santa Fe, Poway and San Diego fire departments; San Diego Sheriff’s Department; San Diego Police Department and the Ronald McDonald House so they can be distributed to children needing comfort during traumatic situations.
“It’s been amazing and feels great to help people,” Jessica said about the support from her classmates and others in the community.
The project started in 2011 when Jessica decided, while cleaning her room, to donate some of her stuffed animals to the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District’s Station No. 2 in 4S Ranch. That led to her holding a stuffed animal collection drive at her school and since then the endeavor expanded to other campuses and local businesses that backed the effort.
“It’s exciting that other people value her project,” said Kathleen Carscadden, adding that as long as her daughter continues to be the driving force behind the collections and taking on most of the work she and her husband will encourage Jessica to continue.
Carscadden said Jessica was nominated for the Kohl’s award by West Coast Fundraising, which donates the bags used to distribute the stuffed animals to emergency personnel. Each bag holds eight to 10 toys and at least 420 bags have been distributed to police, fire and other personnel.
According to Kohl’s officials, the scholarship recipients “are chosen based on initiative, leadership, generosity and project benefits and outcome.”
The Kohl’s scholarship is just the latest recognition Jessica has received. She was featured in the July/August 2013 American Girl Magazine, was among 80 semifinalists selected from more than 1,000 nominees in the 2013 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes contest and last year presented the Simple Acts of Care and Kindness organization’s “unsung hero” award.
Jessica is also among 50 youths recently chosen as finalists for the inaugural Peace First Prize. If chosen by the national organization she will receive a two-year, $50,000 fellowship to invest in her leadership as a national peace leader. It will include her traveling around the country to speak with community leaders on how to make a difference in the world, her mother said.
As for Jessica’s next collection drive, that will be on Oct. 26 in conjunction with Make a Difference Day. Details are still being finalized, but Jessica said some local businesses in 4S Ranch and Carmel Mountain Ranch will be giving incentives to those who donate a stuffed animal.
For project details, go to