Megan Leaf has had one whale of a September.
On Sept. 11, the 14-year-old from Harford County received a $5,000 check and $5,000 college scholarship from J.C. Penney Co. for winning a national award for voluntarism. Four days earlier, she received a $10,000 college scholarship for winning a national Kids' Hall of Fame award, sponsored by Pizza Hut and National Geographic World magazine.
Megan earned these accolades by making about 7,000 "love boxes" in the past four years for patients at Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Her "love boxes" include toys, coloring books, crayons, games and trinkets.
Megan, a ninth-grader at Fallston High School, has been in and out of hospitals since she was 3. She has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder causing tumors inside and outside the body.
"I just know it's boring to be in the hospital," Megan says. "Kids need something to do. I just wanted them to have something of their own."
Her mother, Deborah, a kindergarten teacher at Bel Air Elementary School, nominated Megan for both awards. She was one of four grand-prize winners of the J.C. Penney award at a ceremony near Dallas and one of five winners of the Hall of Fame prize at festivities in Washington.
Mrs. Leaf shakes her head at her daughter's determination. "That's just the kind of person she is," her mother says.
Megan got the idea for her "love boxes" from seeing people on TV making care packages. To get toys for gifts, she first asked for donations -- bugged her family to death, her mother says -- and then got help from her school, 4-H club, and stories in The Sun and on local TV.
She decorated and filled shoe boxes, but then switched to gift bags because they're easier to carry. She says she's begun spending the $5,000 on "love boxes" for the holidays.
"I don't like making a big deal out of this," Megan says. "It's just something I do."