Tar Wars Winner Gives Back

Rhode Island Student Donates Prize Money to Benefit Tobacco-free Program, School

September 30, 2011 04:00 pm David Mitchell

First, Alana McGuinness got the attention of physicians with her artwork(www.tarwars.org). Now, she's done it again with her generosity.

[Collage-Alana McGuinness Gives 2011 Tar War Winnings Back]

Alana McGuinness, the 10-year-old from Bristol, R.I., who won the Tar Wars national poster contest in July, donated her $2,000 prize to her school and the Rhode Island Medical Society. Clockwise from top left: McGuinness poses with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Sept. 17 at the Rhode Island Medical Society's annual banquet; McGuinness and her winning poster; McGuinness presents a $1,000 check to Gary Bubly, M.D., past president of the Rhode Island Medical Society during the banquet; and McGuinness presents her school principal, Cynthia Lorincz, with a $1,000 check.

The 10-year-old from Bristol, R.I., was named the winner of the Tar Wars National Poster Contest July 12 in Washington, D.C., during the annual Tar Wars National Conference, which is the culmination of the AAFP's school-based tobacco-free education program. The prize -- $2,000 -- traditionally is used by the winner for a family vacation.

But McGuinness, who has traveled to out-of-state figure skating and gymnastics competitions and has taken family vacations in places like California, Florida, New York and Texas, had other ideas.

"I had vacations that I would have liked to go on," her father, Kevin McGuinness, said with a laugh. "She came to us and said, 'Would it be OK if I donated the money? We go on a lot of trips, and I'd like other people to have this opportunity.'"

As the national poster contest winner, McGuinness had the opportunity to participate in the Tar Wars National Conference and visit to Capitol Hill, where she met Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.

Story highlights

  • Alana McGuinness, the 10-year-old from Bristol, R.I., who won the Tar Wars national poster contest, has donated her $2,000 prize, splitting the money between her school and the Rhode Island Medical Society, which directs the state's Tar Wars program.
  • The medical society hopes that local media coverage of McGuinness winning the national contest and donating her prize will lead to more Rhode Island schools participating in Tar Wars this year.

"The trip to Washington, D.C., the big blue ribbon and the memory of this awesome experience is award enough," she wrote in a letter to the Rhode Island Medical Society, which collaborates with the Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians and the Rhode Island chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in the state's Tar Wars program.

McGuinness presented an oversized $1,000 check -- nearly as big as the sixth-grader -- Sept. 17 during the Rhode Island Medical Society's annual banquet in Newport. The audience of about 200 people gave her a standing ovation. "They were extremely impressed with her and her character," said Karen Dalton, executive director of the Rhode Island AFP.

In addition, McGuinness met Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts at the banquet, along with dozens of physicians.

Kevin McGuinness said a few physicians used their cell phones to record audio and video messages of his daughter telling their patients not to smoke. "A number of people congratulated her," he said. "Everybody was taken by her. It was a great experience."

Catherine Norton, assistant director of professional and community services for the Rhode Island Medical Society, said Tar Wars is presented to about 3,200 children each year in 36 Rhode Island schools. Norton said she hopes to expand the program to 50 schools this year, and local media coverage of McGuinness could help raise interest.

"Hopefully, this year, with the great story we have to tell, we can get more schools to join us," she said.

McGuinness also donated $1,000 to her school, St. Mary Academy Bay View in Riverside, R.I.

Tar Wars is supported, in part, by the AAFP Foundation(www.aafpfoundation.org). Health care professionals and educators present the program to about 500,000 fourth- and fifth-grade students each year.

Additional Resource
Tar Wars(www.tarwars.org)