GALESBURG, Illinois — As students file into Lombard Middle School on Thursday, it seems like a routine assembly.
"I understand we want to send this message to you," said actor Misha Collins, via video from Vancouver.
When Collins flashes an "L for Lombard," Eighth Grader Katie Dunbar realizes it's something special.
"I was in shock," she remembered.
"You are our Caught in the Act winner," Collins said.
"It's amazing," added Mary Ann Owen, Misha's mom. "I couldn't stop crying."
"This is something that's going to go down in my history books," Katie said. It's a top honor for a caring teenager.
"I used to be scared to come to school," she told us back in April 2015.
We first met Katie during a meeting of her Take a Stand Club at school.
"She went through some tough stuff," recalled Principal Nick Sutton. "She's had some challenges in life, and she's responded to it."
Katie felt the pain of being bullied. But by talking about it and offering random acts of kindness, she found a way to help herself and others.
The national award comes with a $2,000 prize. Katie plans to donate a portion of that to Cystic Fibrosis research.
"I want the impact to be, stop bullying," she said. "And everyone to know that even when you're down, you have someone there for you."
Hugs and smiles symbolize a huge victory over fear.
It also validates a local effort that now has national recognition.
"I hope she reaches for the stars," Owen said. "I've always told her she could do anything she put her mind to."
Building confidence from fear, Katie's strength offers hope for others and the future.
"I never expected this," she concluded. "Yes, it's getting out there. People are starting to understand."
Understand the smiles of success from this important and ongoing mission.