Kidnapping will usually get you 20 years to life.
Celine Cumming, meanwhile, managed to parlay it into a Governor’s Youth Volunteer Service Award.
The 18-year-old senior at Appoquinimink High School is one of 13 individuals to win the award this year, based largely on her successful “kidnapping” of about 40 state legislators, business owners and civic leaders.
Cumming’s senior project, called “Capture for a Cause,” involved her “hostages” voluntarily turning themselves in at the Appoquinimink Community Center on Jan. 26. They each were then only able to secure their release by making a 15-pound donation of non-perishable goods to the Food Bank of Delaware.
Cumming’s project ended up collecting 2,500 pounds of food, far more than the 500 pounds she had anticipated.
“My project didn’t even get approved at first because my senior advisor didn’t think kidnapping was such a good idea,” Cumming said this week. “But I actually ended up having to ask the Food Bank to send a truck to pick up all the food, and some of the people really got into it. One lady even brought her own handcuffs and wore a ball-and-chain around her ankle.”
Cumming’s “hostages” included Appoquinimink School District Superintendent Matthew Burrows, state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown), state Rep. Quinton Johnson (D-Middletown), state Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman (R-Clayton), state Rep. Earl Jaques (D-Glasgow) and state Rep. David Wilson (R-Bridgeville), who personally delivered 269 pounds of food.
The project also attracted the attention of several media outlets, whose coverage caught the attention of Appoquinimink High School guidance counselor Monica Parker, who nominated her for the youth volunteer award.
Cumming said she was shocked to learn two weeks later that she had been selected as a recipient.
“I was pretty happy, but then I got nervous,” she said. “I think the first thing I said was, ‘What should I wear?’ I still don’t have an outfit picked out.”
While “Capture for a Cause” might have been Cumming’s most successful altruistic endeavor, it’s hardly her first foray into volunteering.
The four-year honor roll student also has helped raise money and attention for Kick Out Cancer, Best Buddies, The Everett Theatre, Relay for Life, the Salvation Army, the Down Syndrome Association and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through her involvement in National Honor Society and Rotary Internationals’ Interact Club.
“Volunteering has become like a hobby and I can’t think of a better way to spend your time,” she said. “At first, you think you’re going to give back to these groups, but because of the feeling it gives you, it’s like they’re giving back to you.”
Page 2 of 2 - Cumming will receive her youth volunteer award from Gov. Jack Markell during a dinner at the Dover Downs Hotel in Dover on April 25.
“The award is nice and everything, but the internal reward she’s received from volunteering far exceeds any reward she will get externally,” Cumming’s father, Todd, said. “Hopefully, her success will inspire more kids to volunteer and help out in their community.”
After graduation, Cumming will attend the University of Delaware, where she plans to study engineering.
But that doesn’t mean her kidnapping days are behind her just yet.
“I really would like to do it again, although I’m not sure yet if it will be here or at college,” she said. “But I think it’s a good cause and the community really came together for it. I just have to think of a way to make it even bigger than it was before.”