IKEA Announces Winner for Second Year of Its Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest; Melissa Matthews of Wake Forest, NC to Receive $100,000 Prize

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IKEA, The Life Improvement Store, announces the grand prize winner of the second year of its Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest: Melissa Matthews of Wake Forest, NC. After a month-long, online public vote, Ms. Matthews has won a year-long sabbatical* (worth $100,000) to improve the lives of others through her Special Technology for Special Kids! program.

IKEA, The Life Improvement Store, announced today the grand prize winner of the second year of its Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest: Melissa Matthews of Wake Forest, NC. After a month-long, online public vote, Ms. Matthews has won a year-long sabbatical* (worth $100,000) to improve the lives of others through her Special Technology for Special Kids! program, and over the next year, will share her experience online at http://www.thelifeimprovementproject.com. Additionally, IKEA is donating $50,000 to Save the Children’s U.S. Programs, $1 for every vote cast in the contest (up to the first 50,000 votes – the program received a total of 50,191 votes).

Understanding that people have a desire to be a positive force within their community, IKEA reignited this unique contest last fall to give one deserving winner the opportunity to pursue their passion of helping others. The contest had over 1,000 entrants and more than 50,000 votes were cast by the public for the five deserving finalists, including the winning entry, Ms. Matthew’s Special Technology for Special Kids! program to help children with intellectual disabilities with cutting-edge educational technology.

“As we congratulate Melissa on this exciting new chapter of her life and her cause, we applaud all who participated in this contest,” says Leontyne Green, Marketing Manager, IKEA North America. “We believe that life improvement starts at home and we look forward to helping Melissa with a project that is so close to home for her, yet will help so many others.”

The mother of a child with Down syndrome, Melissa Matthews is planning to expand the work being done at the Frankie Lemmon School in Raleigh, NC, a school for children with intellectual disabilities. This institution uses technology and cutting-edge therapy to help these children with special needs. As winner, Melissa plans to use the new resources and her teaching background to infuse more technology deeper into these classrooms and create a website to facilitate the sharing of these technologies and techniques with other teachers across the country.

“I was given the gift of expectation for my own son when I visited Frankie Lemmon School and saw the effect that new technology and cutting-edge therapies can have on children with special needs,” says Ms. Matthews. “This prize and the support from IKEA will help expand the important work that’s being done at the school and allow us to share what we're doing with other educators so that even more kids can benefit. This opportunity is such a dream come true for me and for so many others who love young children with special needs. It is an honor to be trusted with such an awesome responsibility and privilege."

In addition to the year-long sabbatical* (worth $100,000), Ms. Matthews will also receive a trip to a spa resort in Phoenix, AZ to participate in a one hour life coaching session with O, The Oprah Magazine's life coach Dr. Martha Beck. She will also be featured in advertorials in upcoming issues of O, The Oprah Magazine. The public can also continue to follow Ms. Matthews throughout the year as her project is chronicled on http://www.thelifeimprovementproject.com.

IKEA is also awarding a $1,000 IKEA gift card prize to each of the four runners-up (in alphabetical order) in the contest:

  • Cheryle Clarke (Longmont, CO) of Alternatives to Family Violence, a domestic violence service center provider for Adams County, CO;
  • Lisa Dunster (Missoula, MT) of Compass Retreat, an organization that provides a supportive setting for military service members and their families following return from deployment;
  • Nan Jenkins (Stockbridge, GA) of A Friend’s House, an organization on the outskirts of Atlanta, GA that provides and operates a facility for the community’s children in need;
  • Scott Millard (Landing, NJ) of Connor’s House, a resource center to assist families with chronically ill children, providing short-break respite, family support and end-of-life care.

IKEA launched the Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest in 2010 as part of the company’s Life Improvement Project, an initiative designed to inspire and empower people to improve their lives at home, as well as the lives of others in their community. For more details on the Life Improvement Project, visit http://www.thelifeimprovementproject.com.

Connect with us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/IKEAUSA) and follow us on Twitter (@DesignByIKEA).

  • The grand prize winner is not required to take a leave of absence from work. If the grand prize winner chooses to take leave from employment to work on their project, they can utilize a portion of the prize toward living expenses.

ABOUT IKEA
IKEA strives to be ‘The Life Improvement Store,’ and since its 1943 founding in Sweden, has offered home furnishings of good design and function, at low prices so the majority of people can afford them. There are currently more than 330 IKEA stores in 40 countries, including 38 in the U.S. IKEA, the world’s leading home furnishings company, incorporates sustainable efforts into day-to-day business and supports initiatives that benefit children and the environment. For more information, go to IKEA-USA.com.

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