This story has been updated to include the full list of honorees.
PITTSFIELD — Madison Quinn was only 11 years old when she found her passion to help children with cancer.
After meeting a pediatric cancer patient in her little sister's play group, she began collecting cans and bottles to fund care packages she would then send to patients and their families.
Now 16 and the founder of the nonprofit Strong Little Souls, Quinn has supported about 400 families through her organization.
"I just started dragging my brother out on trash mornings, and from there it's kind of blown up," Quinn, of Pittsfield, said Thursday at the Berkshire Plaza Hotel, where she was the youngest 40 Under Forty honoree, as a rising star. "I love what I do, and I would never change it."
Thursday was the third 40 Under Forty event hosted by Berkshire Community College, in partnership with 1Berkshire and The Berkshire Eagle.
The event recognizes outstanding young professionals from a variety of industries.
This year's honorees were chosen by 11 judges out of a group of 110 nominees, according to BCC Foundation Director of Development Craig Smith.
Quinn, who was surprised Thursday with a $1,000 scholarship to BCC, said that her work with Strong Little Souls has inspired her to continue working with children with cancer throughout her life, possibly by pursuing a career as a pediatric oncologist.
But not all honorees at Thursday's event decided on their career path before graduating high school.
Zachary Feury, a 31-year-old project coordinator at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, spent five years as a dairy farmer before returning to school for public policy.
"I had a job where there were cows, and I realized I liked working with them," Feury, of Shelburne Falls, said about his former career.
After getting a degree at Vermont Technical College in dairy farm management, Feury bought 75 cows and ran a dairy farm in Vermont.
Lucus Marion, 28, chef and owner of Otto's Breakfast and Deli in downtown Pittsfield, dropped out of college more than once before the opportunity arose for him to purchase the restaurant three years ago.
Owning Otto's has given Marion the opportunity to support his family and to regularly partner with Berkshire nonprofits in fundraising efforts, he said.
"My boss offered me an opportunity to earn a livable wage that I wouldn't have with just a bachelor's degree," Marion said about acquiring his restaurant.
For Leah Reed, a human service coordinator for the city's Department of Developmental Services, Thursday's award came at just the right time.
Friday is her 40th birthday.
Reed has known from a young age that she wanted a career in social work, which she has had for the past 18 years.
Aside from her job, Reed also is vice president of the NAACP's Berkshire County branch and served as a delegate at the Democratic National Convention.
"Advocacy is my passion," Reed said Thursday. "Every opportunity I have to do that is great. I love what I do."
Hannah DeLisle Stall
Ed St. John
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Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at email@example.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.