Spark the Wave has renamed its annual award, given to a volunteer who has gone above and beyond that year and who is recognized for their outstanding service and dedication to the organization, to honor Katie Oleksiak.

Spark the Wave (STW) is a nonprofit organization, based out of Philadelphia and Washington DC, that empowers young people to be stronger volunteers and community leaders. STW’s largest program, Wave Week, is held each summer on college campuses. Giving students in grades 6-11 the opportunity to come together to learn leadership skills, serve their communities, and plan their own service projects. 

Katie started volunteering with STW back in 2005, just a year after its founding, when she was 16 years old. She went on to become STW’s first full-time employee in 2012. During her eight years of service, she moved from Program Manager to Program Director, and finally Executive Director. She led the organization through the extremely difficult time of COVID, adapting programming and creating a virtual summer program.

Although Katie moved on from her role with the organization, she has continued to volunteer with STW. She has been an advisor to the Wave Week Director and helped get the program back to in-person, for the first time in 3 years. The event was held this summer at Villanova University.

At the closing session of this year’s Wave Week, STW’s Founder, Bill Gallagher, along with Wave Week Director, Gavin Brezski, recognized Katie’s service by renaming one of their top awards in her honor. Originally titled the Extra Step Award, it will now be known as the Kathryn R. Oleksiak Extra Step Award.

STW President and Founder Bill Gallagher, Katie Oleksiak, Wave Week Director Gavin Brezski, Matt Burns (Former Wave Week Director)[/caption] STW President and Founder Bill Gallagher, Katie Oleksiak, Wave Week Director Gavin Brezski, Matt Burns (Former Wave Week Director)[/caption]

Although this recognition was well deserved it was not expected by Katie. “At our closing session, I was surprised to hear my name called and was asked to come to the stage (I was also wondering why my parents happened to be there),” says Katie. “This meant so very much to me after so many years building the organization. And as my mom says, it’s just an added bonus that I met my soon-to-be husband at Wave Week 15 years ago.”

Katie joined the team at StudentsCare in September 2021. As Program Manager, she assists in overseeing the Hospital Buddy Program and Senior Buddy Program while working closely with student volunteer teams. 

“Katie has brought to StudentsCare a tremendous level of professionalism and care that spring from her experiences at STW,” says Tami Robinson. “That she is being recognized with this honor is telling of the upstanding character she not only possesses herself, but that she encourages others to find and develop within themselves. She Is such a joy to work with!”

StudentsCare CEO and Founder Erica Sokol Carroll couldn’t agree more. “This award is so well deserved! Katie is truly a gift to the nonprofit world, and we feel lucky to have her on our team. She is a passionate and dedicated leader who is always looking for ways to improve and make a difference. We know that she will continue to do great things in the nonprofit sector, and we are proud to call her one of our own.”

Katie works tirelessly to serve the community and we at StudentsCare are so happy she is getting the recognition she deserves.

Congratulations Katie!