For the Hingham Mothers' Club, one action can make all the difference in the world.
Under that mantra, the organization handed out its first ever Butterfly Effect Award this month, which seeks to recognize a local resident who has improved the community through service.
The term “butterfly effect” was initially coined by chaos theory, which suggested that the fluttering of a butterfly wing would impact the wind and weather systems of the world.
The idea that something so small could have such a large impact was carried on in the words of Peter Milewski to describe his beloved daughter, the late Carolyn Ouellette – a Hingham mother active in community service who passed away in December 2011 from breast cancer.
Ouellette was a neighbor of Mothers' Club president Liz Klein, who had been mulling over the idea for an award for local moms for some time.
“It connected all the dots for me when I heard that [phrase],” Klein said. “That’s the essence of this award. Any small action can have a huge impact on our local community and in the greater community.”
Thus, the idea for the award was born. According to Klein, the biggest desire was to just give some recognition to moms who continually do so much with little appreciation.
“It’s a thankless job most of the time. We wanted to just recognize moms in the community and we help it local and small,'' said Klein, who added that the criteria are that the winner be a resident of Hingham and a mother who makes some sort of impact.
Eight highly qualified women were nominated, Klein said, and Dana Donnelly, a mother of three, walked away with the title.
Donnelly was the perfect choice for the award, Klein said.
“While all the nominees were impressive, she had her hand in the most things and had a range of philanthropy. Plus she’s been doing it a number of years,” Klein said. “Each of the nominees has made serious impact on the Hingham community and beyond. [But] Dana has touched so many people in Hingham, via her work with the schools, the town and the environment. She has truly improved the lives of so many people.”
A Hingham resident for almost 12 years, Donnelly started her education-related volunteer work when she joined the board at Wilder Memorial Nursery School.
She spent three years raising money for the school and eventually became vice president of the board.
Additionally, before moving to Hingham, Donnelly volunteered in the education departments at both the New England Aquarium and the Birth Aquarion in La Jolla, Calif.
After moving to Hingham, she eventually became interested in the Trustees of Reservations, the South Shore Natural Science Center, the Hingham Newcomers’ Club, and the Friends of Hingham Public Schools.
She also started volunteering in numerous capacities with Plymouth River School PTO, and worked as a Girl Scout leader for her daughters’ troops.
She also has done a significant amount of work for her 6-year-old son.
Born with a rare genetic disorder called Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, Donnelly’s son has a host of medical problems, including an intellectual disability and a “global development delay."
As a result, Donnelly and her husband have founded the Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome Children’s Foundation (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Rubinstein-Taybi-Syndrome-Childrens-Foundation/172895259402178) to provide guidance to families whose loved ones live with this rare disease.
“It is difficult for caregivers to find adequate medical care because the knowledge of this rare syndrome is limited,” Donnelly said in a release. “Our foundation strives to connect with researchers and fund their work while conducting outreach activities to promote dissemination of the latest medical and patient care information to physicians, scientists, and families.”
The organization is now a 501(c)(3) grant-making organization, and has conducted several small fund-raisers in addition to meeting with researchers.
“We have just begun to reach out to the RTS families, and are now dedicating efforts to our branding (including logo development and website creation) before we choose a research project for which to fund-raise,” Donnelly said.
Pushing her forward are idols like Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who dedicated her life lobbying for the disabled, and Bono of U2, who has worked to reduce poverty and disease in Africa.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping others, and I believe in teaching our children the importance of giving back to our world,” Donnelly said. “There is a huge sense of fulfillment derived from work that contributes to a better tomorrow.”
The Hingham Mothers' Club will present Donnelly with an iPad 2 to help her continue her work.