2019 winners - Sasha Khripkova & Natalie Larson

Sasha's Nomination
Natalie's Nomination
Natalie's Thank You

Award Presentation By Matthew Vogele - Alan's Best Friend:

It’s an honor to be with you this evening to present the Alan Bell Memorial Award. Before I present the award, first, a few words about Alan, for those of you who weren’t lucky enough to know him. I first met Alan in 1997, the summer before his senior year here at Lower Moreland High School. It was very easy to grow to like him: he was incredibly witty, but in a low-key, relaxed way that invited people to let their guard down. Really, you could just hear his laugh – which he did often, and at considerable volume – and know that this intelligent, vibrant person was someone you wanted to get to know better.

We later both went to college at the University of Pennsylvania, where we became best friends. We tried out together for the college improv comedy group – and when we didn’t make it the first semester, we later tried out again – and then again – and then again. (It turns out the fourth time is not always a charm.) He loved politics, and could talk with great insight about Gore v. Bush, or 9/11, or the Iraq War. We would commiserate about heartbreaks as well as about our heavy college workloads—he balanced, with great aplomb: a very challenging class roster; a rich social life; and a demanding set of campus activities with which he was deeply involved.

But it wasn’t until I’d already known him for a very long time that I first learned that, many years ago, as a toddler, Alan had struggled with and survived a diagnosis of cancer after being given only a 5% chance to live. As time went on, it became more and more apparent to me just how much that experience had shaped Alan’s worldview. He was profoundly grateful for his life, which seemed to give him perspective and balance in all things. It was little wonder that he was such an easy, reassuring presence in the lives of others—that he was so quick to laugh, and to puncture the self-seriousness of so many occasions.

When Alan eventually passed away at age 26 from a second battle with cancer, his family and friends agreed that we wanted to try to find some formal manner of honoring the way that Alan had managed to be such a tremendously positive force in the lives of so many, even despite having faced so many challenges.

And so, the Alan Bell Memorial Award is given to graduating Lower Moreland high school seniors who, like Alan did, have faced adversity, grown from their hardship, and made a significant difference in the lives of others. This year there were several excellent nominees for the award, and—for the first time ever—we are now presenting the award to not one, but TWO extremely deserving students: Sasha Khripkova and Natalie Larson.

As with Alan and his significant medical issues, both of these students have faced substantial challenges in their lives and have not just made it through, but have been exemplary persons and students in the process. Sasha has been: a volunteer at Abington Hospital in the nutrition department; a worker at a local bilingual home healthcare clinic, where she’s had the opportunity to use her Russian language skills; a volunteer at her Valley Youth Center; and a valued member of the school’s choir. As one of Sasha’s teachers said in nominating her: “Sasha continues to persevere and serve as a bedrock in her friend group. She is known among her peers as being a good friend who is never involved with petty dramas but always makes herself available when someone else is upset. She is trustworthy [and] kind.... I think Sasha's poise, grace and respect[fulness] make her a great candidate for the [] award.”

Natalie, meanwhile, has also been a volunteer at Abington Memorial Hospital, as a patient transporter, connecting and talking with patients about their own challenges. As part of the committee to end gun violence in schools, she’s helped to organize a peaceful walk-out following the school shooting in Parkland. And she’s been a valued member of the school’s symphonic band. As her school counselor said in nominating her, “Natalie epitomizes resilience.... Natalie is strong, focused, and determined not to let anything stand in the way of her future.... If there was ever something that I was certain of, it would be this: Natalie will continue forward with determination and her positive, can-do attitude, to create a future for herself where she will both help and inspire others.”

I note as well that both of these young women will, next year at college, begin studying to pursue medical careers dedicated to helping others. Natalie plans to enroll in her college’s Nursing Program, while Sasha plans to pursue a career as a doctor.

I am proud to present the 2019 Alan Bell Memorial Award to two students who exemplify the resilience, the kindness, the positivity, and the intelligence of my dear friend, Alan. Congratulations to Sasha Khripkova and Natalie Larson.


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2017 winner - Jacinda Raju

Jacinda's Nomination
LMHS' Note About Jacinda
Jacinda's Thank You

Award Presentation By Ben Baranov - Alan's Nephew:

Congratulations Class of 2017!

My name is Ben Baranov and I graduated from Lower Moreland 4 years ago. Tonight I have the honor of presenting the Alan Bell Memorial Award on behalf of Alan’s Legacy. I know we are near the end of the night so I will try to keep this short.

My family has been giving this award to a deserving graduating senior since my uncle Alan passed away 10 years ago. Now there are so many impressive things to share about Alan. He beat cancer as a 3 year old. He scored a perfect score on his SAT. He met the President Bill Clinton as a high school senior here at Lower Moreland. He attended Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania. While all of this is very impressive, to me the most admirable thing about Alan was his approach to life.

One of the biggest compliments I have ever received is that I look like Alan or that I remind someone of him. This is because anyone who met my uncle, knew immediately that there was something special about him.

The best way to show you Alan’s thoughts about life are his words from when he was 11 years old. Here at Lower Moreland in 6th grade, there is an assignment called the Philosophy of Life. When Alan was asked for his philosophy he wrote “I think people are put here on Earth so they can do something, everyday no matter how small or large.”

Now we have all heard this message before, but the difference was Alan truly believed it. He lived it. Every second of his life was intentional and he was one of the nicest most caring people you would ever meet. He took his adversity as a 3 year old and turned it into a lesson that changed the way he lived the rest of his life. And that is what this award is all about. Recognizing people who really embrace life. No matter what life throws at them, they persevere and everyday they do something to make the world a better place.

The winner of the Alan Bell Memorial award this year subscribes to this philosophy. She has been very involved in THON over the past 4 years and has helped the corporate committee fundraise and reach their goals. In her application, she wrote “Throughout high school I often asked myself, what was the purpose of my life if I never made an impact on someone else’s life?” This applicant has made an impact on several lives around her. Both at school and at her church, she volunteers to help teach students with special needs and provide them with the extra one on one help they need. After a childhood of family challenges and adversity, our award winner persevered and is going to make the world a better place. Next year she will attend Drexel University to major in nursing help children struggling with their health battles.

Without further ado, I am honored to present the Alan Bell Memorial Award to Jacinda Raju.


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2015 winner - Theo Hansel

Theo's Nomination
Theo's Questionaire
Theo's Thank You

Award Presentation By Irina Baranov - Alan's Sister:

Earn this.

Two little words.

I first heard those words used in a powerful way in 1998, when I saw the movie Saving Private Ryan. It’s an incredible, and true, WWII story about a group of army men, led by Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Miller who receive an order to go find and bring home a young soldier, Private Ryan (played by Matt Damon).

Spoiler alert: It’s not a comedy. Just about everyone dies, including Captain Miller, who was never a fan of this mission, but understood why he and his men needed to go find and bring back the only remaining son to a mother who had already lost her other 3 boys in the war.

As Tom Hanks masterfully plays the scene where he’s dying, he looks at Matt Damon’s character and whispers, “Earn this.” “Earn this.”

The next scene we see is 50 years later, as a gray-haired Private Ryan is kneeling at the grave of Captain Miller and says, “Every day, I think of what you said to me on that bridge. I’ve tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.”

So what does this movie have to with the Alan Bell Memorial Award, you’re probably thinking? Well, hang with me...

Back in the summer of 1998 when this movie was released, my brother Alan had just graduated from Lower Moreland. He was all sorts of amazing: the first Presidential Scholar from our district, graduated top of his class, perfect 1600 on his SAT’s and about to go triple major Penn. But you would never know any of those things if you met him. If you met him, you’d just see someone who had a joy and appreciation for life and people unlike anything you’d ever seen before. Someone who would make you wonder if he was playing the game of life from a different playbook than the rest of us. Someone who was so accomplished at such a young age, but also ridiculously funny, unreasonably generous, and over-the-top helpful to others. He was that rare combination of amazing drive and determination, coupled with humor, humanity and zest for life.

So when he called me that summer and said, “Have you seen the movie Saving Private Ryan? You know the ending where Tom Hanks says, ‘Earn this?’... Well, I’ve felt that my entire life.”

You see, he felt that because he was given a 5% chance to live when he was diagnosed with cancer as a toddler. He felt that because he survived - he got to live - while other kids didn’t. And so he used his “bonus time,” as he called it, really well. From tutoring kids who couldn’t afford SAT prep classes, to donating his time and efforts to countless community programs, to raising money for cancer research (any fellow THON people in the room?). Just like you guys, he was determined to make a positive impact on the world.

When he passed away at age 26 from a second battle with cancer, we knew that we had to do two things in his honor.

1. Continue to raise money for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which is leading the fight against pediatric cancer; and

2. Create an award here at Lower Moreland, to honor a graduating senior every year who embodies the same spirit that Alan did. Someone who faced huge adversity and decided to make the world a better place, as a result. Someone who took life’s lemons and made lemonade.

So this year, while we received some really amazing nominations, one stood out. Not because he’s a cancer survivor. Not because he reminded us of Alan. But because he lives and breathes the “Earn This” message.

Allow me to quote his own words which beautifully express that:

“I will often take a moment to recall how blessed I am. Even today, almost 15 years since my diagnosis, the long-term survival rate for high-risk neuroblastoma has hardly changed. I consider how fortunate I am to be in a position to help those who are currently struggling with the disease, and those who will in the future... I feel I owe it to those who have died facing my disease, as well as the doctors and nurses who worked so hard to save me.”

Earn this.

And from the nomination letter we received from Mrs. Quinn about him:

“He views his survival from stage IV Neuroblastoma as a gift and, largely because of this, I believe, is one of the most determined, focused and goal-oriented young people with whom I have ever worked. He is also one of deep character and true spirit.

He yearns to be a true contributor in the field of medicine and research. Most inspiring to me, however, is that he already is - having spent last summer at CHOP, helping conduct research.

When I read the criteria for the Alan Bell Memorial Award, my very first thought was Theo Hansel.”

I couldn’t agree more. So it is my distinct honor and pleasure to call up Theo to receive the 2015 Alan Bell Memorial Award.


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2014 winner - Caitlin Dryden

Caitlin's Questionaire
Thank You From Caitlin

Award Presentation By Irina Baranov - Alan's Sister:

Congratulations class of 2014! Every single student in this room is about to be recognized for something special. A room full of stars. It's an honor to be with you, see you shine and present the Alan Bell Memorial Award. For those who didn't know Alan, he was my brother - he was brilliant, hard-working, funny, kind, generous - and a proud member of the class of 1998. That year, he and Lower Moreland were in the local news a lot. Alan, because he was selected as Pennsylvania's Presidential Scholar and got to go to the White House to meet the President; and Lower Moreland because it was chosen as a Blue Ribbon School. It was a good year around here.

And when President Clinton was shaking Alan's hand and asked him where he was from, Alan ditched the usual response we all give when we're out in the world - Philly - and instead said "Lower Moreland." He was incredibly proud of his school, and it always held a special place in his heart. So when his life was cut short by cancer and we wanted to set something up in his honor, it was a very easy decision - it had to be here, and it had to be an award that honored someone like Alan. Someone who whose young life was effected by adversity. Someone who helped others, despite their own challenges. Someone who "played the hand their dealt" with grace, strength and humor.

So every year, we receive nominations of wonderful - really wonderful - kids who have endured hardships and who continue to excel and help others. And it's never an easy decision. We have an 18 member committee who vote on this, and we all struggle because nominees are really remarkable. This year was no different. But one person stood out. Despite chronic pain, several surgeries, and moments of personal disappointment about the things she could no longer do, she continued to get up every day and focus on the things she could do. She could power through her pain and teach little kids to play piano. She could help raise money for children battling cancer. She could serve as an inspiration to friends and family who knew how brave and strong she was being. And despite her pain and limitations, she could still fulfill her duties as Senior Class President. 

It gives me great joy to present the Alan Bell Memorial Award to the amazing Caitlin Dryden.


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2013 winner - Lindsey Yam

Lindsey's Nomination Application
Lindsey's Questionaire
Thank You From Lindsey
Lower Moreland High School Thank You

On May 20, 2013, Lower Moreland High School held their annual Senior Awards Night. The 6th annual Alan Bell Memorial Award was given to Lindsey Yam.

Irina Baranov, Alan's sister, presented the award. She talked about how much LMHS meant to Alan and what an impact Alan made on the district during his high school years and beyond. She mentioned that once again this year we received many qualified nominations, with amazing stories about very special people, but one stood out. Lindsey Yam’s extraordinarily challenging family situation and caring for an ill grandmother forced her to grow up fast. In addition to being a great help to her family, Lindsay matured into an even more caring, giving, encouraging friend.

When Lindsey came up to accept the award, she was very touched to have earned such an honor. After the awards ceremony Lindsey and her mother spent time with our group (Alan's friends and family) to take some pictures and talk. We enjoyed getting to know them, and wish Lindsey all the best in her future!

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2011 winner - Ariel Schuman

Ariel's Nomination Application

The 2011 Alan Bell Memorial Award presentation night written by Ben Baranov, Alan's nephew.

On May 23, 2011 , Lower Moreland High School held their annual Senior Award Night. The 5th Alan Bell Memorial Award was given this year to well deserving student, Ariel Schuman. Mr. McKee, principal of the high school, mentioned that he had a special connection to the award because he knew Alan personally and thought very highly of him. He remembered the impact Alan made on the district during his high school years. Then, he introduced Irina Baranov, Alan's sister to present the award.

Irina followed with a very moving speech. She stated that once again this year we had received many qualified nominations, with amazing stories about very special people, but one stood out. Irina talked about Ariel's qualifications for the award, and exemplified her character when she read an excerpt from her nomination. Ariel's track and field coach, Ms. Mary Crossin, nominated Ariel in a very heart-felt and detailed letter. Ms. Crossin said that she could always count on Ariel to do be the "heart" of the team. Ariel was captain of the girls cross country team and led by example. She always gave it her all, even though she had many personal challenges.

When Ariel came up to accept the award, she seemed very touched to have earned such an honor. Ariel received many awards that night, but after the ceremony she and her parents spent time with our group (Alan's friends and family) to take some pictures and talk. We enjoyed getting to know Ariel and her family after the award ceremony. Ariel was a proud and grateful recipient of the award, and sent a lovely thank - you card, expressing her gratitude.

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2010 winner - Julie Wojciewcowicz

Julie's Nomination Application
Thank you from Julie

Award Presentation By Irina Baranov - Alan's Sister:

Hi, I’m Alan’s sister and it’s an honor to be back here again to present this award. We established the Alan Bell Memorial Award as a way to honor his legacy of living life to the fullest, despite adversities. We built a website to tell the world about it (, raised some money (because Alan was a “play big or go home” kind of guy) and here we are in year 4, with friends and family who always come back for this special night.

It seems to me that every year, something comes along to remind me of the real meaning of the award. One year it was driving by a kids’ lemonade stand and thinking, “yep, that’s what this is – the lemonade award – when life handed him lemons, he made lemonade .” Another year, it was doing some volunteer work with my own kids and talking about “making the world a better place and trying to help people who are less fortunate, because no matter what struggles we’re facing, there’s always someone facing bigger ones,” and I thought how great it was that we have a chance to honor someone here at Lower Moreland who makes the world a better place, despite their own challenges. And this year, I found myself smiling when listening to the Spring concert right in this auditorium a few weeks ago, as the incredibly talented chorus sang the song “For good,” and I thought “That captures it.. this award always goes to a really special person who forever changes the people around them for the better.”

As we read the wonderful nominations of deserving students, one stood out as so heart-felt and moving and life-changing. It was written by a coach. A coach who had known the nominee since freshman year, and saw her face huge adversities during her time here, during which she not only survived, but excelled – in class, on the court and in the field, in her community, and most importantly, in her maturity, responsibility and kindness.

The nomination letter was one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever read, and we’ll put it up on our website this week. It talks about this young woman’s perseverance through trying times, commitment to challenging goals, community service, responsibility to help her family and friends, compassion, work ethic and integrity.

The quote from Coach Becker that puts it best is “Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give, is that she is the type of young woman that I hope my two daughters grow up to be.”

And with that, I’d like to call up this year’s recipient of the Alan Bell Memorial Award…

Ms. Julie Wojciechowicz


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2009 winner - Jake Blanton

Jake's Nomination Application
Thank you from Jake

Award Presentation By Irina Baranov - Alan's Sister:

It's an honor to be back again to present the Alan Bell Memorial Award.  While it's only our third year, it's amazing to see how word has spread about the award - evidenced by the many worthy nominations we received from teachers, counselors, friends and community members.  And thanks to the generous response to our fundraising efforts, we were also able to double the value of the award.  I think Alan would be smiling about the fact that it's now a "big, bad award" - worthy of excitement and pride.

Every single student who was nominated was a star.  It was heart-warming to read about them - how they faced challenges head-on and yet continued to make a positive impact on others.  But one nominee stood out.  I'd like to read just a few lines from the note we received about him..

"Despite his challenges, he's a fighter.. the most compassionate fighter I know.. He shows kids that misfortunes can happen, but they cannot break your spirit... I am proud to have him on my staff and am in wonderment of his positive attitude and kind heart."

It is our pleasure to present the 2009 Alan Bell Memorial Award to Jake Blanton!


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2008 winner - Hana Fudala

Read her essay

We are proud to present the second annual Alan Bell Memorial Award to Hana Fudala.

Every year, in Alan's honor, we look for a young person who best exemplifies some of the same spirit that made Alan who he was - someone who took every single lemon that life handed him - like battling cancer twice- and turning it into lemonade. As Alan used to say 'You gotta play the hand you're dealt. Don't whine about it. Just play it. And make the world a better place while you're at it.'

This year, we were thrilled to have a number of exceptional students proposed for the Award, but one stood out. Not only did she live through her own heart-breaking challenges, but she somehow turned those experiences, as did Alan, into opportunities to learn, to grow and to savor life and the people in it. From taking care of her Mom and her grandparents, to volunteering her time, energy and devotion to senior citizens at Holy Redeemer and St. Joe's throughout Middle School and High School, she has continued to channel her efforts to help others, and play the hand she's been dealt in the most generous, loving way possible.

Congratulations, Hana!

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2007 winner - Jessica Hwang

In 2007, the Alan Bell Memorial Award was given to Jessica Hwang for her courage, perseverance and devotion to others.   She faced adversity when her mother battled a serious illness, but did not let that stop her from achieving academically or from giving back in a meaningful way to her community. 



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