June 14, 2016

Joseph W. Madison Youth Award

Tyler Thiel

2016 Joseph W. Madison Youth Award Recipient



Joe Madison said it best when he said: “Everybody’s got something to give. There are so many ways to take your skills and talents and help the community.”


A longtime community volunteer, Joe spent countless hours giving back to help make Saginaw County a better place. Many of those hours were spent volunteering with youth in our community during the annual Spring into Service and Make a Difference Day events. Joe always gave a little more and encouraged others to do so as well.


Established in 2007, the Joseph W. Madison Youth Award recognizes an area youth who gave a little more and went above and beyond to serve the community.


This year’s recipient has demonstrated an extraordinary personal commitment to improve the quality of life here in Saginaw County.


We are proud to present this award to an individual who represents the future of philanthropy here in our community.





The following is Tyler’s nomination as submitted by Kay Wejrowski, Swan Valley High School:


Tyler Thiel was born to serve. Growing up in a family that fostered the importance of sharing one’s gifts, he learned early on that no matter what your state in life, there are always others who need help.


As a freshman in high school, Tyler was always first to offer his talents, time and resources for any place there was a need. “What do you need?” and “How can I help?” often accompany his daily greetings.


The Heart of Saginaw, a non-profit that is “on a mission to love, equip and empower the children of teens within the inner city of Saginaw, Michigan,” has been feeding children since August, 2013 as a family project initiated by two of Tyler’s parents, Tom and Mona Thiel. Tyler has spent countless hours helping his parents fill the stomachs and hearts of local children in poverty. At school, he has not only made us aware of this organization, he reminds us that we all have something to give. Whenever possible, Tyler’s gentle encouragement inspires us to think beyond ourselves and engage in the service of others.


Tyler enjoys a challenge, and is gifted with technology. A problem solver, he has assisted our school with technology issues throughout his high school career. Two years ago when our district moved to a 1:1 iPad platform, Tyler agreed to serve as one of the VTEAM student technology service leads. As a volunteer, he has spent the last two years working not only in our high school on software and repair issues, he has serviced our entire district. Since he will be graduating this spring, Tyler has been voluntarily training underclassmen to take over when he goes off to college.


Tyler is so dedicated that before his school day school starts he stops in the library to see if there are any issues that need immediate service. At the end of each school day, he stops by to make sure that we are “all set.” I cannot count the number of days in the past two years that Tyler has stayed, on his own time, to help us out.


This year, a local business contacted our school about partnering to sponsor a “Cyber Senior” program, where our students would assist senior citizens in the community with technology. As a result, we worked with 34 senior citizens in a two-month span, helping them learn how to use a computer or tablet, smart phone, and other technology. The students involved set up Apple IDs and Skype accounts, mentored the senior citizens with communicating with family and friends through Facetime, and even assisted with setting up Netflix and other programs the senior citizens wanted help with. Most of all, the teens spent time with, and listened to, and became friends with, the senior citizens. Tyler was not only a leader in this group, he went beyond what was expected, helping senior citizens at school on his own time, and even visiting a local senior citizens’ home to help debug and repair computers. Senior citizens would call and say they needed help but had to wait until their computer was fixed before they could set up a time to work with our high school kids. Tyler would respond, “Give me the address” and go and fix the desktops, laptops and tablets so the senior citizens would not have to pay a repairperson.


He has been active in our community’s Pay-It-Forward program since middle school, and has contributed to this group’s efforts to raise thousands of dollars to lend a helping hand those in need. It was Tyler’s class, led by a friend’s parent, who started this group that has provided Christmas gifts to children in need, as well as backpacks and school supplies to get kids on the right track for school. In addition, this group has sponsored fundraisers for chronically ill patients in the area, and even assisted with funeral expenses for cash-strapped community members.


As a member of National Honor Society he exemplifies the standards of character, scholarship, leadership and service. Tyler’s service demonstrates his character and leadership. He has been active as a volunteer for Special Olympics, mastering the technique of latching Olympiads into cross country skis as he spent hours on his belly in the snow, encouraging athletes through his assurances that they would surely win a ribbon at the end of their race.


In spring events, he served as a bullpen leader for softball throw, standing long jump and shot put, directing other volunteers while making sure the competitors had a memorable experience.


Tyler has maturity beyond his age, and a positive focus. His mechanical skills are always in need, whether building sets for school plays, working on our fields and grounds, or setting up new equipment in the technology or industrial arts departments.


Last October, when our school initiated a water drive to help children in Flint schools, Tyler was on hand to help with the effort. He offered to help us get trucks and trailers, to load and stack water, and assisted with every part of the program.


On his class schedule, Tyler has an hour working as a co-op student in the athletic department. The confines of the school schedule are just a suggestion for him, however. Tyler can be found several evenings a week voluntarily assisting with a wide-range of interscholastic and community events.


Recently, a staff member mentioned that her car quit the day before and she was stranded. Tyler overheard the conversation and asked, “Why didn’t you call me? Take my number and if that happens again I can help you.”


Whether mentoring freshmen through the GIVES program, feeding children in our community, working with senior citizens, or serving as a technology maverick, Tyler does not even recognize that he is doing anything out of the ordinary. He exemplifies a passion for helping others, is generous with his time and talents, and most importantly lives a life of philanthropy – as a mere teenager. If he has been able to touch so many lives in his short life, imagine what he will accomplish in the future.


Tyler Thiel is an amazing young man, and an excellent example for Saginaw County youth. Joe Madison would have liked to know him.