Kurt Larson, a Springfield attorney who founded the “Safe and Sober Prom Night” campaign and has devoted countless hours to its success and expansion over 12 years, was honored as the 2015 Humanitarian Award recipient on Dec. 8 at the DoubleTree Hotel.
Larson founded the program in Springfield Public Schools 12 years ago when he recognized the peer pressure and complicated choices teens face regarding alcohol use. He decided to start a program to educate teens about the dangers of driving while impaired. Since then, his efforts have expanded to the “Missouri Safe and Sober” program reaching more than 127,000 students at 291 registered high schools across the state.
In presenting the award to Larson, Humanitarian founder Jewell Thompson Schweitzer lauded Missouri Safe and Sober’s efforts to pre-empt tragedy rather than reacting to it. She thanked him for “addressing the cause rather than the effect.”
Larson gives school presentations, distributes pledge cards, added middle schools, and invested his own money into the program – all in an effort to prevent tragedies related to drug and alcohol use, said attorney Jim Corbett, who submitted the nomination.
A 1989 graduate of Drury University who earned his law degree at the University of Oklahoma, Larson also serves on the community Underage Drinking and DWI task forces.
“Mr. Larson embodies the very definition of a social reformer by aiming to change the culture of underage drinking in Missouri,” said Pam Holt, a registered nurse and nationally recognized injury prevention expert who wrote a letter of support for Larson’s nomination.
The Humanitarian Award was founded in 1990 by Schweitzer to honor individuals in our region who excel at serving others in a humanitarian capacity. The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce organizes a committee to review nominations and select the annual recipient.
This year’s selection committee was comprised of the Chamber’s Chairman-Elect Debbie Shantz Hart, Dr. John Marshall, Debi Meeds, Doug Pitt, Tom Rankin, Dr. Robert Spence, and Rev. Mark Struckhoff.
The winner receives a $5,000 cash award, which has traditionally been donated to a charity of the winner’s choice. Larson elected to donate his award to “the ministry of Missouri Safe and Sober.”