OGDEN -- Five local women who have overcome hardships and given untiringly to the community have been recognized by Soroptimist International of Ogden.
The awards, given in different categories, including the Violet Richardson Award, Women of Opportunity Award, Ruby Award and Spirit of Soroptimist award, were presented during the organization's annual awards ceremony.
Aimee M. Matheson, 18, of Clearfield is this year's Violet Richardson Award recipient. A senior at Clearfield High School, Matheson has been traveling and working the last six years in Latin American countries with her father, who works in excavation. The two of them have adopted a day care in Guatemala that will provide a safe place for children while their parents are at work.
Matheson, who said service has always been an important part of her life, has been working with a partnership called Charity Anywhere Foundation where she helped organize a group of 42 students and 13 chaperones who will travel to Guatemala to build a new day-care center. As the project director, she has volunteered over 500 hours.
This year's first-place winner of the Soroptimist Opportunity Award was Julie Madsen, a Weber State University education health promotions major and a divorced mother of three. Madsen, has been involved in organized fundraisers for surgical expeditions to Africa to help women in a small village in Mali.
As a mother, Madsen has helped one daughter through an eating disorder and has held down three jobs to help pay for large medical bills from treatments and surgeries for family members.
"Life may not be easy, yet we must always remember that it's the challenges that define us best and the obstacles that illuminate what we are truly capable of," she said, quoting an anonymous author. "We must welcome adversity and embrace struggle, and no matter what we get from life, never give less than 10 percent."
The second-place winner of the Opportunity Award is Tracy Kaye Thomson, a single mother who is working toward a nursing degree at WSU.
Thomson said her first husband committed suicide, leaving her a widow of two small children and one on the way. She later moved to Argentina with her second husband, who tried to kill her instead of giving her a divorce. During an attack from her husband, Thomson received second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body. She and her children moved to Layton with her sister who took care of the children while Thomson recovered.
Today, Thomson frequently tells her story of domestic violence to many criminal justice classes at WSU.
Reese Driscoll is the third-place winner of the Opportunity Award. Driscoll is a business administration management major at WSU and the mother of two boys. Her husband had to return to his hometown in Mexico where he remains today, but he continues to give the family emotional support.
Driscoll, a breast cancer survivor, works with people who face barriers in finding employment. She hopes to obtain her bachelors degree and would like to take on the challenge of law school and focus on immigration law.
The Ruby Award recipient this year is Lisa Trujillo, an assistant professor of respiratory therapy at WSU.
Since 2005, Trujillo has been involved as the program director for humanitarian work in Ghana. The program allows women and students to travel to Ghana for the purpose of providing medical care, research, medical education, community assistance and distribution of supplies. Trujillo has been instrumental in providing free health clinics for over 2,000 villagers and has distributed nearly $1 million in donated supplies.
Soroptimist International of Ogden has approximately 40 professional women from Northern Utah, said LeeAnn Crompton, president of the group. The organization focuses on projects benefiting the community as well as women and girls.