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Pittsburgh-Based Friends and Classmates Earn International Youth Award for Outstanding Fundraising, Leadership

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Maeve Shaughnessy and Sydney Birchard

(Arlington, Va.) The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is proud to announce that Maeve Shaughnessy and Sydney Birchard (above), friends and classmates who work to support individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), are the recipients of the 2022 William R. Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, Group, presented by Carter.

The William R. Simms Awards for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, presented by Carter, honors young people with a proven record of exceptional generosity who demonstrate outstanding civic and charitable responsibility and whose philanthropy encourages others to engage on a community, national, and/or international level.

“I am so grateful to be receiving the AFP Youth award alongside my best friend,” said Maeve. “Thank you to everyone who has supported us since we first started ALS Kids, including ALS Association of Western Pennsylvania, our friends and families. We couldn’t have done this without them!”

Bonded by the ALS diagnoses of their grandparents, Maeve and Sydney officially launched ALS Kids after winning a local “Be the Boss” youth competition with their philanthropic project. Starting with the money and guidance they received through that program, the two have raised more than $50,000 toward ALS research since the inception of their organization.

“It’s hard to believe when we first started ALS Kids seven years ago that we would have been able to help so many people with ALS in Western Pennsylvania while also bringing more awareness to the disease that affects so many families daily,” said Sydney.

Maeve and Sydney, nominated by the AFP Pennsylvania, Western Chapter based in Pittsburgh, Pa., have hosted a variety of events to raise awareness about ALS and funds to support research initiatives, including a walk-run (now an annual event), a miniature golf event, a youth softball tournament and a Change for Change campaign.

When the pandemic hit, they pivoted to online events, turning the walk-run into a virtual format and hosting Coffee or Cocktails for a Cause, asking people to pledge the money they would have spent on coffee or happy hour drinks to ALS Kids. The two already have fundraising plans for 2022 and beyond to continue their organization’s efforts.

“It’s such a wonderful thing when something great is born out of necessity, as was the case with these two young women whose family was touched by this devastating disease,” said Bob Carter, CFRE, Chairman of Carter. “All of us at Carter are thrilled to bestow this honor on these young go-getters who not only care but put their drive, passion and creativity to work for the good of others."

Maeve’s and Sydney’s efforts also garnered national attention, travelling to Washington, D.C. for ALS National Advocacy Day to speak with their members of Congress about the significance of funding for ALS research and programs. Even though their grandparents have since passed from ALS, they plan to continue to raise funds and awareness until ALS is eradicated.

“Younger generations are the future of philanthropy,” said Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA, President and CEO of AFP. “I hope Maeve and Sydney’s dedication serves as an example to future generations the great impact that philanthropy can have on supporting and changing communities on both a local and national level. You’re never too young to engage with philanthropy and inspire others to service, and all of us at AFP are honored to recognize these two amazing youth philanthropists.”

The award will be presented at AFP’s ICON 2022, the largest gathering of fundraising professionals in the world, in Las Vegas.

More information about Maeve and Sydney, along with AFP ICON, can be obtained by contacting Michael Nilsen at (425) 241-4675 or  

Carter is a consulting firm dedicated to advancing philanthropy worldwide through counsel in the areas of fundraising, organizational planning and governance. With over 40 senior-level consultants living throughout the United States and Mexico, the Carter team has over 1,000 years of combined experience in the arts, conservation, healthcare, education, human services, humanitarian aid and international sectors. Carter’s depth of experience allows each consulting team to be strategically selected based on the unique needs of its nonprofit partners. Carter consultants have assisted hundreds of organizations of all sizes, ranging from regional nonprofit agencies and national associations to institutions of higher education and international causes. For more information, visit

Since 1960, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) has been the standard-bearer for professionalism in fundraising. The association works to advance effective and ethical philanthropy by providing advocacy, research, education, mentoring, collaboration and technology opportunities for the world’s largest network of professional fundraisers. AFP’s more than 26,000 members in over 240 chapters raise over $100 billion annually for a wide variety of charitable organizations and causes across the globe. For more information, go to

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