Major League Baseball, PEOPLE and the Washington Nationals today announced the three finalists and the start of the voting period for the 2010 “PEOPLE All-Stars Among Us” national campaign, which debuted in 2009 and recognizes individuals who are serving their community in extraordinary ways. The Nationals finalists are Mark Bergel of Bethesda, Md., Kat Lanigan of Herndon, Va., and Joe Mornini of Rockville, Md.
While volunteering with a local organization to deliver food to the hungry, Mark Bergel witnessed firsthand the difficulties individuals living in the Nation’s Capital faced and founded A Wider Circle in 2001 to help impoverished residents secure a wide array of basic necessities, including food and furniture. A Wider Circle has since helped 50,000 individuals by providing furniture and other home items, hosting educational and health and wellness workshops, and offering classes and basic necessities for expectant teenage mothers.
As a freshman in high school, Kat Lanigan’s father - a U.S. Army Reservist - was sent on extended deployment again. In an effort to offer their thanks and support to those in similar circumstances, Kat and her sister created a letter-writing campaign to other children of deployed parents in the same way that various organizations send letters to soldiers overseas. Since they began this project in 2006, letters signed by celebrities including NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, NASCAR drivers and Warner Bros. characters have reached more than 30,000 children nationwide.
In 2004, Joe Mornini co-founded the non-profit organization Team River Runner(TRR) to train and mentor active military personnel and wounded veterans in white-water rafting, kayaking and other paddling sports. Over the past six years, TRR has developed 25 national programs and worked with more than 1,500 veterans and their families. Initially focused on serving rehabilitating soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, TRR expanded to other Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs chapter sites in 2007.
Fans from across the U.S. and Canada nominated their local “All-Stars” during the first month of the baseball season and three finalists representing each MLB Club (90 overall) have been selected from thousands of online submissions. Fans are encouraged to log on to www.PeopleAllStars.com now through June 20 to vote for their favorite community “All-Stars” who go above and beyond to serve their communities. A total of 30 “All-Stars,” one per MLB Club, will attend and be honored during the 2010 All-Star Week in Anaheim, Calif., including at the pre-game ceremony of the All-Star Game on July 13 on FOX beginning at 5:00 p.m. PT (8:00 p.m. ET). One “All-Star Among Us” winner will be featured in PEOPLE during the week of the All-Star Game, the premier sporting event of the summer.