Audrey Wetterau

Audrey Wetterau is an Upper St. Clair sixth-grade student.

A Boyce Middle School sixth grader was recently recognized for making a difference in the lives of others.

Audrey Wetterau was honored with the NextUp Award, 12 years and under, for her extraordinary efforts through Socks With A Mission.

The NextUp Awards honor young people who are dedicating their time and talents to making a difference in others’ lives through fundraising, philanthropy, volunteerism and activism. The awards are hosted by the Blood Science Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Vitalant.

“Each of our NextUp Finalists are the brightest examples of the young people who make our region so special,” Mark Giaquinto, president and CFO of Blood Science Foundation, said. “At the Blood Science Foundation, we’re proud to honor their hard work and can’t wait to see what they do next.”

Pittsburgh’s onaugural NextUp Awards Celebration was held Oct. 6. Winners in each of three age groups received $2,500 to further their education or to invest in their philanthropic or charitable programs. The first and second runners-up received $500 each for the same purpose.

Audrey plans to use her award to continue to help others.

“It was really amazing, and I’m so happy that we were able to get money to help more people,” she said.

Audrey began Socks With A Mission two years ago, when she was 10. After learning socks are among the items most needed by unsheltered people who are homeless and the No. 1 item requested at homeless shelters, Audrey began working on her first sock collection drive.

“People experiencing homelessness really need socks, because they often walk miles to just get basic necessities and they have nowhere to wash their socks. So they wear out quickly, and that can cause foot health problems,” Audrey said. “Socks are something we take for granted, but people experiencing homelessness don’t.”

Since SWAM’s inception, Audrey has raised thousands of dollars and has distributed approximately 30,000 pairs of socks to those experiencing homelessness in Pittsburgh and areas including Erie; Youngstown, Ohio; and Wheeling, W.Va. SWAM distributes socks to dozens of organizations, including Light of Life, Family Links, The Blue Kangaroo, Street Moms, Shepard’s Heart and Light in My City.

Throughout the month, Audrey’s school is observing “Socktober.” A sock collection box is located in the school’s main office for students and staff to drop off new socks. In addition, “crazy socks” will be sold in the mornings throughout the month for $3 a pair. All profits will be used to purchase socks for local homeless shelters.

In addition to SWAM and school, Audrey likes to ride her horse, Stanley. She rides competitively in both the American Quarter Horse Association and the Interscholastic Equestrian Association.