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This UC student is already an award-winning philanthropist, and it's not about donating money

'We are all capable of making a difference'
Posted at 5:00 AM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 17:44:42-04

CINCINNATI — Camryn Morrow was a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Cincinnati’s School for the Creative & Performing Arts when she got her first taste of philanthropy.

Right away, she was hooked.

“I loved knowing that it was a lot more than the money aspect,” she said. “Knowing that I was able to offer my time and talents to a group and impact someone’s life, no matter how big or small. It just filled me with so much pride and hope. And I knew that this was something that I wanted to incorporate into my everyday life.”

Morrow has done exactly that.

Now 20 and a third-year student at the University of Cincinnati, she volunteers as an ambassador for Magnified Giving, the nonprofit that taught her about philanthropy all those years ago. She also serves as a teaching fellow with Breakthrough Cincinnati, a nonprofit that helps prepare students for college. And she started her own organization, a book club for women of color at UC called Sister Outsiders in honor of writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde.

To honor Morrow’s contributions and her passion for giving back, the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Greater Cincinnati will recognize her as Youth of the Year during a National Philanthropy Day celebration on Nov. 5. Magnified Giving nominated her for the honor.

“It’s inspiring to know people like Camryn, young people, are so committed to helping others and making a difference,” said Elise Hyder, chair of the National Philanthropy Day event and senior development director for Beech Acres Parenting Center. “We’re really excited about recognizing her and her amazing work in the community.”

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Elise Hyder

Morrow is among five people being honored, and a local foundation also will be recognized. Barbara Turner, the president and chief operating officer of Ohio National Financial Services, will be the keynote speaker. WCPO 9 is serving as the event’s media sponsor, and WCPO 9 News anchor Kristyn Hartman will emcee.

Like so many celebrations this year, the event will be held virtually because of concerns about COVID-19. Although it’s disappointing that the event can’t be a gathering of as many as 700 people as in years past, Hyder said, she’s confident it will be an affirming celebration of the human spirit.

“This event, at its core, is about love for each other,” she said.

‘A bright light’

Morrow, who was born and raised in Cincinnati, said she feels strongly about campus involvement at UC, especially the university’s various cultural organizations.

Creating her own book club grew out of that involvement, she said. About 20 young women participate in the group regularly.

“We focus on diverse voices in literature that have often been silenced and are things that we often aren’t taught about in our English classes in primary school,” she said. “It serves as a space for these women to come together and find community among one another and be exposed to pieces of literature that they may not have been exposed to before.”

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Camryn Morrow, second from right in front row, with her Sister Outsiders group.

Morrow started the book club last school year.

The people who selected her for the award were inspired by her work, Hyder said.

“What a wonderful way to step up and have those difficult conversations and have a safe place,” Hyder said. “She’s just such a bright light.”

Morrow said she’s grateful for the honor and hopes to inspire other young people.

“I really hope that I show others that, you know, we are all capable of making a difference in this world, no matter how big or small,” she said. “Philanthropy is a lot more than just money. It’s about offering one’s time, one’s talent and all of us having something to offer to make someone’s life just a little bit better.”

‘Bigger than writing a check’

Turner, the event's keynote speaker, said she is excited to be a part of it.

“I’ve had a heart for philanthropy since I was a child,” she said. “I can remember having bake sales and contributing part of the money to charity or a church or to individuals in the community who I felt had a need. I’ve always felt a responsibility to share whatever I had.”

That responsibility has continued into Turner’s professional life.

Turner is a board member of Advocates for Youth Education, the Cincinnati Women’s Executive Forum and vice chair of United Way of Greater Cincinnati. She’s also a member of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and the Cincinnati Regional Business Committee, in addition to sitting on the boards of the Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and Cincinnati State.

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Barbara Turner

“The more I have accomplished, the more I’ve given, and the bigger responsibility I’ve demanded of myself to give,” Turner said. “For me, it’s not enough to just write a check. I feel that you have to be part of the solution, and a part that’s bigger than writing a check. I feel you have to be a change agent to advance the overall well-being of mankind and our community in general.”

Turner said she and her husband raised their children to understand the importance of philanthropy at a young age, too, just like Magnified Giving did for Morrow.

“At a young age, [Morrow] accepted the challenge,” said Kelly Collison, the executive director of Magnified Giving. “She knew that she had a voice and it was strong and passionate and she had a duty and she accepted that duty, and she is shining through her college years.”

Magnified Giving nominated Morrow for the Youth of the Year award because of that commitment, Collison said.

“She uses her gifts of leadership in tandem with her passion for social justice and philanthropy,” Collison said. “It’s just hard to find people who do that while they’re 20. She’s very dedicated to serving others.”

Other people and organizations being honored as part of the National Philanthropy Day event include:

Philanthropists of the Year: Bill and Jenny McCloy, a Liberty Township couple whose philanthropic work spans multiple organizations, including several that serve people with disabilities.

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Bill and Jenny McCloy

Volunteer of the Year: Gerry Greene, who went to law school after retiring from the Procter & Gamble Co. and has practiced law for free with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati for 18 years.

RELATED: Attorney honored for providing free legal aid to those in need

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Gerry Greene

Outstanding Corporation/Foundation: R.C. Durr Foundation, which has made more than 1,100 grants worth more than $25 million since Durr’s death in 2007.

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R. C. Durr

And new this year – Lifetime Achievement in Fundraising Award: Mary Fischer, who has helped raise more than $25 million in support of Bethesda North Hospital, Hospice of Cincinnati and Fernside, A Center for Grieving Children.

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Mary Fischer

The event also will recognize what Hyder called “the philanthropic community’s quick and amazing response” to the COVID-19 crisis, specifically highlighting the efforts of the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund and the work of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, ArtsWave and the others who came together to create the Black Lives Matter mural outside Cincinnati City Hall.

More information about the event is available online.

Tickets will be available for sale through the association’s Greater Cincinnati website.

Anyone can attend, Hyder said, and event organizers will begin selling tickets in the coming weeks. Each ticket costs $25, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter’s New Faces in Fundraising Program, which works to attract more people of color into the fundraising profession.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To reach Lucy, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.