2014 Service to YL Alumni Awards: Sharon and Russ Stolle

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Isn’t it amazing how one decision can make an impact on your life and the lives of those around you? In the late 1970s, a senior at Oak Park-River Forest High School in Illinois made the decision to give a self-professed “spiritually disinterested sophomore cheerleader” a ride to Young Life club. As a result, during the summer of 1978, on the lawn by the lake at Windy Gap, this “now-interested” teenage girl began following Jesus during the 15 minutes of silence. Today, 36 years later, we honor this woman, Sharon Stolle, and her husband, Russ, as our 2014 Alumni Service to Young Life Award recipients.

Fast forward to 1987; Sharon and Russ are married, Russ has finished law school, and the young couple has made their way to Houston, Texas. At that time Sharon became, in her own words, a “full-time volunteer” for Young Life, leading at Lamar High School and even serving as head work crew boss at Frontier Ranch in 1989. Soon, a move to Austin, Texas, was necessary and Sharon found that many of the kids they knew in Houston were now at the University of Texas at Austin. This was a season full of college Bible studies, welcoming girls and their friends into their home, and raising a family. It also became a season of serving Young Life as committee members in Austin and, for the past 10 years, in Montgomery County where the Stolles’ currently live. However, the Stolles’ involvement with Young Life does not end there. …

In 2010, in conjunction with their daughter Emma and three of her friends, Sharon pioneered the launch of WyldLife in The Woodlands. Sharon stated, “My daughter and her friends felt that many of the struggles they had prior to coming to Christ originated in junior high school, and they were certain that having leaders who were pursuing them for Christ could have made all the difference in the world. They desired to be those leaders.” Four years later, Sharon continues to serve as a volunteer WyldLife leader, alongside student staff team leader, Melanie Kovacs, and has seen more than 120 kids go to WyldLife camp over three camping seasons. Additionally, in the summer of 2014, the Stolles served as adult guest hosts at Frontier Ranch. Sharon is quick to point out Russ’s significant contributions to the Young Life work in The Woodlands. From serving on committee for over 10 years; to providing much-needed financial support; to being a listening ear and source of encouragement to many kids, leaders (including Sharon) and staff; Russ is an integral part of the area ministry.

When asked why, after all these years, she is still serving the Lord through Young Life, Sharon replied, “In Chicago 35 years ago, people I never met were running clubs, attending committee meetings, praying and giving so that Young Life would be in my community to reach kids like me. They loved me, though I was a stranger. I was made for this. We all were. We have had the opportunity as a family to love with an ‘irrational love for strangers.’ Because of this irrational love, I am blessed and grateful. I have no greater joy than this, to see my children (and spiritual children) walk in truth.”

Sharon and Russ, thank you for your partnership in the Young Life mission; for your devotion to kids, volunteers and staff; and for your ongoing service. It is truly a privilege to honor you as our 2014 Alumni Service to Young Life Award recipients!