Johns Hopkins celebrates 10 for their community service

Eight Johns Hopkins affiliates and two community members will receive the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award

Composite image of 10 people

Image caption: Top row, from left: Allie Benson, Thomas Burnett, Ryan England, Megan McGowan, and Larissa McRoy. Bottom row, from left: Sandra Panchalingam, Pingdewinde Sam, Ava Roberts, Nadia Egbunine, and Tatiana Egbunine.

Johns Hopkins will celebrate the service and contributions of eight faculty, staff, and students, as well as a pair of Baltimore sisters who previously participated in the Johns Hopkins Summer Jobs Program with the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award. They will be recognized for their volunteerism during a telecast ceremony at noon on Friday as part of the 38th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration taking place virtually this week.

The awards ceremony will also recognize the winner of the Levi Watkins Ideals Award. This year's commemoration keynote address will include a virtual fireside chat Thursday at noon featuring Sherita Hill Golden, vice president and chief diversity officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine, and political strategist and former acting chair of the Democratic National Committee, Donna Brazile. The awards ceremony will be followed by a virtual screening and live discussion of King in the Wilderness.

Here's how the 10 recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Community Service are making a difference.

Allie Benson

Physical therapist, Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

Benson and her husband John founded Charlie's Champs in 2018 following the loss of their newborn daughter Charlie. The non-profit organization is dedicated to providing children with disabilities opportunities for joy, companionship, and physical fitness. Throughout the year, the organization raises money to donate equipment that insurance will not cover, such as adaptive tricycles so that all children are included in play with their peers and family—no one is left behind. So far, the nonprofit has raised money and donated 45 adaptive bikes. In January 2019, she started a group with Charlie's Champs called Charlie's Closet, a free equipment exchange.

MLK Commemoration promotional image
Jan. 11-15
Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration

Join Johns Hopkins for a weeklong virtual celebration in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The program includes webinars, film screenings, fireside chats, and other activities.

Thomas Burnett

Neuroscience graduate student, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

When he is not studying or conducting research, Burnett is advocating for greater access to science for underserved communities. His efforts include organizing a science festival called Baltimore Brainfest, which provides students in grades K-8 an opportunity to learn from hands-on, interactive neuroscience exhibits. He is also overseeing Maryland DNA Day, an event that will expose K-12 students to the field of genetics.

Ryan England

Radiology resident, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

England volunteers in a number of different roles with RAD-AID International, a nonprofit global health organization that aims to improve access to radiology in low resource regions around the world. His work has included providing portable ultrasound exams to dozens of men and women in Cape Verde without access to imaging, including pregnant women who were previously unable to get a prenatal evaluation. He has combined his medical training with his prior flight experience as a navy pilot and now volunteers as the manager for flight operations of a medical hybrid airship program.

Megan McGowan

Clinical specialist-occupational therapist, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

McGowan regularly buys reading glasses and stores them in her desk so she can give them to the patients, including those with COVID-19, who were rushed to the hospital and did not have time to grab their readers. To combat these feelings of anxiety and isolation, she created a booklet for the COVID-19 patients that included coloring pages, word searches, and bed and seated exercise tutorials, along with meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques that patients could perform. McGowan also supports a student through Thread, an organization that connects volunteers with at-risk high school students.

Larissa McRoy

Patient care technician, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

Following five years of making and distributing sandwiches to Baltimore's homeless population, McRoy and her husband, Kevin Allen, who both work in the Radiology Department at Johns Hopkins Bayview, started a nonprofit called Humanity Over Humility last year. Their mission is to help people facing homelessness with daily necessities, such as toiletries, clothes, and oral hygiene products. What makes their mission special is that they focus on the individuals who are suffering from substance use disorder.

Sandra Panchalingam

Research program manager, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing

Panchalingam has been a long-term volunteer with Adopt-A-Block, Inc. to give back to families in Baltimore City and across Maryland. For 18 years, she has helped the organization renovate vacant houses for low-income owners, host block parties, and distribute 43,000 meals to families each month. Behind the scenes, she writes grants on the organization's behalf. She also volunteers with The Hiding Place, a residential facility for women in crisis, by writing grants and providing support wherever needed.

Ava Roberts

Clinical laboratory scientist, The Johns Hopkins Hospital

As a member of the Greater Baltimore Urban League, Roberts regularly participates in events designed to support the community with employment, education, health care, and housing needs. She mentors high school girls at her alma mater, Western High School, and participates in mock interviews to help students prepare for jobs. Every year, she collects new and gently used purses filled with toiletries for homeless women as part of an initiative called Purses with a Purpose.

Pingdewinde Sam

Doctoral candidate, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

"PSam," as he is affectionately known, founded nonprofit called Teêbo, Inc., to sustainably reduce poverty and improve health through economic development in Burkina Faso. He used his personal savings to get started, and subsequently Teêbo developed its threefold strategy of engaging villagers, equipping them with tools to become independent, and empowering them to succeed by promoting agriculture, education, and safe water. He also mentors underrepresented minority high school and college students in STEM topics.

Nadia Egbunine

Johns Hopkins Summer Jobs Program participant, Student Community Service Award recipient

Nadia Egbunine is a biochemistry major at University of Maryland Baltimore County. While in high school at Roland Park Country School, she tutored math for 6-12th graders and has helped a Baltimore nonprofit, My Sister's Place, with a project to support homeless woman. She donated 85 purses project filled with toiletries. She also has assisted with giving out hot beverages and food to those in need.

Tatiana Egbunine

Johns Hopkins Summer Jobs Program participant, Student Community Service Award recipient

Tatiana Egbunine is a biochemistry major at Towson University in Baltimore. She enjoys engaging in community service with her sister, Nadia. She has served as a student tour guide at the National Aquarium and also assists in a variety of activities to help those in need. She is especially interested in helping to empower women and encourage more students to pursue STEM careers.