2021 Via Bona Awards: Stories of Hope

This year’s Via Bona award-winners included an executive who began providing shelter for homeless people during the pandemic; a group of students who raised more than $4,500 for the family of a boy with cancer; and a journalist who showed that a single individual can draw public attention to forgotten groups in society and help them in meaningful ways. These are just three of the more than 50 nominations we received in the 24th annual Via Bona Awards.

The theme of 2021 Via Bona Awards was Stories of Hope and there were two award categories: the Art of Engaging in Community and the Art of Giving. The awards ceremony took place at the Residence of the US Ambassador in Prague on October 12th.

Via Foundation has been dedicated to the development of philanthropy and community life in the Czech Republic for almost a quarter century. Through the Via Bona Awards, the foundation showcases inspiring stories of philanthropy and publicly expresses thanks to those who give back to society.

“It might seem that the past year was just non-stop crisis, without anything good at all, but from our own and our grantees’ experience we know that’s not true. In many places across the country, people stepped up to make positive changes in their communities,” says Via Bona Awards manager Nela Šandová. “This year’s Via Bona Awards are all about lifting society’s spirits. These stories of philanthropy are proof that life didn’t come to an absolute standstill during the pandemic and that people gave back and helped one another during this difficult period. They are stories of hope that can inspire each and every one of us.”

There were 6 Via Bona award-winners this year. Babeta Schneiderová helped house homeless people in empty hotels during the pandemic. She also founded a running group called Advent Running which raised $45,000 to purchase medical devices for disabled children.

A group of students from the city of Olomouc received an award for their project Students for Cancer (“Studenti pro onkologii”). The death of their classmate, 15-year-old Anežka, led the group to begin raising money to support Tomášek, a 3-year-old boy with leukemia whom Anežka had wanted to help. The students recorded a motivational video and ran a fundraising drive which brought in $4,600 for Tomášek.

The third award-winner in the Art of Giving category was journalist Nora Fridrichová. Nora drew attention to the issue of single parenting and served as an intermediary for donations to very poor families. When the schools closed, she held another drive through which over 1,000 computers were donated to children of single parents to enable them to participate in remote learning. Nora is currently helping other families through another project called Wardrobe (“Šatník”).

In the Art of Engaging category, the jury recognized Věra Fina, founder of the organization Jelimán, which helps cancer patients and works for changes in legislation affecting disabled people.

Sisters and twins Věra Luhanová and Petra Zábranová opened a branch of the organization Inhale (“Nádech”), which supports single parents, in the west Bohemian town of Cheb. As volunteers, they have devoted time and money to create an organization that offers single parents financial and psychological assistance. In the 18 months since they opened, they have helped hundreds of families.

The third award-winner in the Art of Engaging category is František Kynčl. He has been helping homeless people since 2013 by involving them in volunteer clean-up events in České Budějovice and Tábor.