First place: Cathy Waddell Cox, Mount Pleasant

$1,500 will be given to Ricardo Perry’s nonprofit, Connections and You Inc.

During this season of thanks, I am so thankful for Ricardo Perry. If those whose lives he touches knew they could write about him, you would be inundated with letters of gratefulness for his care and concern for young men at Hanahan Middle School.

Ricardo is a police officer assigned to Hanahan Middle as the school resource officer. Sounds simple: show up, handle discipline issues and set a good example. He does that. However, he decided that there was much more that could be done, so he started a nonprofit organization called Connections and You Inc.

He now has 60 boys in the group who meet regularly. In addition to programs that teach them responsibility, integrity and positive character traits, they also volunteer often in the community.

Recently, the city administrator wrote that he was so impressed by their actions while handling a large outdoor event that he wanted to applaud them.

Ricardo’s job does not stop when he has put in his 40 hours. He is constantly meeting with these guys after hours, speaking to parents and figuring out what else he can do to be a positive role model.

His family is very gracious in sharing him because they know that his heart and soul are about seeing young people succeed, even when circumstances might suggest otherwise.

He currently has five men from the community serving as mentors, and within the group there are peer mentors and junior peer mentors. It is amazing to see how, when given the opportunity, these young men take on leadership roles.

Truly, some of them will be leaders of our town, state and nation because someone saw the potential and decided to do something about it. Many are thankful for Ricardo Perry.

I serve on the board of this amazing organization, and I wish I could write 3,000 words about how lives are being impacted in such a positive way. The stories are endless —and, yes, some don’t make it.

For instance, Ricardo had to arrest one of his guys recently. It broke his heart, but he knew that if he was going to teach integrity, he had to live it. Probably the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.

He grew up without any positive role models in his background, but there were people in the community who saw that he had great potential, and they reached out to encourage him. Now, he is driven to give back.