Cooper Libby, 12, of Norway (center), has been honored with the American Legion’s Youth Hero and Good Deed Award for doing yardwork for a Purple Heart veteran. Also pictured from left, Linda Jack of West Paris Ring McKeen Legion Auxiliary Post 151, Corey Libby, Katie McAllister and Dorene Wilbur of the West Paris auxiliary. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

WEST PARIS — Back in 2020 Cooper Libby of South Paris’ Boy Scout Troop 130 was looking for places to log in volunteer hours. The now seventh grader has had his own mowing business for five years but was also looking to do some community service.

At the same time, a Purple Heart recipient who is a regular at Daddy O’s in Oxford mentioned to co-owner Aaron Oulette that he was looking to hire someone to do yard work at his home, asking if he knew of anyone. Oulette said he’d look into it and then connected his customer to Cooper’s parents, Corey Libby and Katie McAllister, all of Norway, who then connected with the veteran, Frank.

“I took Cooper over a few times and he (Frank) was so wonderful,” said McAllister. “He asked how much Cooper wanted to be paid and Cooper told him nothing, that he was volunteering his time. He was adamant he was going to pay him but finally he accepted that (Cooper) just wanted to volunteer.”

McAllister said she and Cooper visited Frank to do yard work three times, spending more than six hours in his company. The two talked about Cooper being in the Boy Scouts and about injuries the veteran had received. Frank showed Cooper his lawn tractor and weed whacker, which Cooper used to clear brush growing up around stumps on Frank’s property.

“I remember him saying the state [Veteran’s Administration] didn’t really want him doing all that stuff,” Cooper said about why Frank was in need of help.

When Oulette got word about the help his customer received he posted about it on Daddy O’s Facebook page (facebook.com/daddyosoxford/posts/10157193555902121) to give Cooper a shout out for his community service.

Cooper Libby of South Paris Boy Scout Troop 130 earned the American Legion’s Youth Hero and Good Deed Award for doing community service yard work. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

That post quickly went viral with 1,300 likes, almost 200 comments and more than 300 shares. One of the shares caught the eye of Diane Jack, secretary of West Paris’ Ring McKeen Legion Auxiliary Post 151, and continued rippling further afield.

Jack received a call from the chairman of the Maine American Legion Auxiliary Children and Youth Committee in Augusta that Cooper’s service should be considered for a Youth Hero and Good Deed Award.

Jack had already obtained and completed the application on his behalf..

“Cooper owns a small business,” Jack wrote on the application. “A restaurant called Daddy O’s asked for help for a Purple Heart recipient. Cooper came to the rescue to help this veteran and did it for nothing. What a great story! The real young knowing what it means to do something from the heart.”

With the pandemic shutting down federal administrative offices it took more than a year for Jack to receive Cooper’s certificate. But by October she had the award in hand and contacted Libby and McAllister (again through Daddy O’s) to let them know their son had received a national honor.

“We were blown away with the response to the picture posted on Daddy O’s Facebook page,” said McAllister. “Hundreds of messages and people shared the post and it just went viral.”

Last Tuesday afternoon Jack and West Paris Legion Auxiliary Post 151 President Dorene Wilbur met with the McAllister/Libby family at Oxford Hills Middle School to present Cooper with his American Legion Auxiliary certificate and letter of congratulations.

Cooper had no idea he would receive such a distinguished award that day, although he suspected there might be something happening related to Scouts.

“He had to get dressed up,” laughed Libby. “So he knew he wasn’t in trouble.”

“There were 250 national awards given in 2020,” said Jack. “One went to Cooper. He was one of only five kids from Maine to get one.”

Linda Jack of West Paris gives Cooper Libby of Norway a hug of thanks after honoring him with the American Legion’s Good Deed Award last Tuesday. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

With his parents’ help, Cooper is continuing his pursuit of community service around Oxford Hills. Since that good deed back in August 2020 he has been accepted into an online community service program, The 50 Yard Challenge (weareraisingmen.com/the-50-yard-challenge/). The challenge requires boys and girls to complete volunteer lawn-mowing (or other yard work) for 50 people who could use a little bit of help.

McAllister said they had to try a few times before Cooper was able to join The 50-Yard Challenge, which is sponsored by the non-profit organization Raising Men Lawn Care Service.

After presenting Cooper with his award, Jack and Wilbur confirmed with Cooper that they want to provide him with two of the 50 yards needed for his challenge and would arrange for him to help out at the American Legion post 151 in West Paris for credit as well.

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