Nurturing Leadership in Youth: The Will Appleby Award

William Everett Appleby
February 2, 1982 –
September 2, 2001

“To say that Will Appleby was an outstanding youth does not do justice to the influence he had during his life and the kind person he was,” Jean Cochrane, an Appleby Award Committee member and close family friend, explained. “I chose to be a part of this committee because I am one of the adults impacted by Will’s life. He was always fun to be with, no matter your age, and even when he was the life of the party, he was always looking around to make sure that everyone was included.

“On the way to the hospital the day Will was born, his parents dropped his brother Mark at my house, making me one of the first to learn of Will’s birth,” Jean reminisced. “Throughout his life, it was a joy to watch Will grow and to experience his fun, funny, and serious sides.”

Will’s parents, Jim and Brenda Appleby, will tell you that, like many children, Will faced difficulties, but he loved life and First Presbyterian Church. In fact, one of Will’s top priorities was attending youth group (called Presbyterian Youth Connection or PYC) and promoting the goals of its mission. He could always be counted on to call his friends to tell them what time he was picking them up for PYC. He emerged as a young leader and was relied upon by adult counselors. He helped organize PYC retreats, summer programs, and a mission trip to Mexico.

The Will Appleby Award – given annually in Will’s honor – is awarded to youth who share Will’s love and dedication to this community of faith. Each year, members of the congregation nominate outstanding youth to receive the award, which was established by Will’s family after his tragic death in an automobile accident in 2001.

Gathering shoes for Westerly Hills Academy

The Appleby Award Committee comprises church members, past recipients of the award, former youth advisors, and a childhood friend of Will’s. Jean said, “It is an honor to serve on this committee as we encourage all our youth to follow the model Will set for them.”

In April, the committee announced the 2024 recipient of the Will Appleby Award: Kate Herring. Jean explained: “Kate stood out to us as a person who faithfully attends PYC on Sunday evenings, and she often brings friends. She participates in outreach ministries and attends youth conferences. Kate’s enthusiasm, welcoming attitude, and love for the church reminded those of us who knew Will so much of him.”

Kate further embodies the characteristics the committee seeks through her volunteer work with Bellxcel, Westerly Hills Academy, Core Church, and the church nursery. She has served on the Youth Council and Youth Director Search Committee.

Youth collect the offering on Youth Sunday

When asked about the award, Kate shared: “I feel so honored to be on a list of amazing people helping to keep Will’s memory alive. I know how special he was, not only to the Appleby family but to our church as well, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude that the committee felt I was worthy of this award.”

The award aims to recognize and encourage leadership, as today’s youth will lead the future of our church in a changing world. Several recipients have gone on to serve at First Presbyterian, including one youth adviser, three deacons, two elders, and numerous teachers and committee members.

Kate will undoubtedly carry on Will’s legacy and make First Presbyterian proud. Congratulations, Kate!

Share this with a friend!