Fairfield Warde High School senior Alexandra Taikowski, in addition to having a good head on her shoulders -- she'll be attending Ivy League school Dartmouth College in the fall -- also has a good heart.

With the help of friends, family and support from community businesses, she organized a Catwalk for a Cure fundraiser last year that raised close to $15,000 for the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center, proving that hard work pays off.

Taikowski, who has volunteered at the center, fundraised or assisted with the center's Rose of Hope Luncheon since she was in seventh grade, was recognized as a statewide runner-up by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, the United States' largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. It honors middle level and high school students for outstanding service to others at the local, state and national level.

The program's goals are to applaud young people who already are making a positive difference in their towns and neighborhoods and to inspire others to think about how they might contribute to their communities.

Long before Taikowski was raising thousands of dollars from one event, she was a 13-year-old raising $600 via a bake sale. The following year, in eighth grade, she arranged a mother-daughter tea party at her parents' home, raising more than twice as much as the bake sale. That effort prompted an invite by Donnna Twist, the executive director of the center, to speak at the Rose of Hope Luncheon. Taikowski wasn't the only guest speaker. The other was Dana Reeve, wife of actor Christopher Reeve. That might make a young girl nervous but Taikowski handled the situation like a seasoned pro.

The now 17-year-old was first inspired to raise money for the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center after her grandmother, Mary Lou Bixler, was diagnosed with cancer. The cancer was caught early on and Bixler -- who stayed with her daughter and granddaughter for a month before heading back to Florida -- is doing fine today. Even so, Taikowski was impressed with how staff from the center compassionately treated her grandmother and that inspired her to raise funds so others can be treated the same way. The money raised over the years has provided vital breast care to uninsured and underinsured local women.

In addition to her involvement with the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center, Taikowski also did a Discovery to Cure six-week summer internship last year, working in a laboratory at Yale University with a research scientist. The program concludes with students presenting their research data in the form of a PowerPoint presentation for family members, teachers, investigators and departmental staff. Taikowski's mother, Lynne, said she gets emotional when she thinks about all her daughter has done as a result of the grandmother being diagnosed by cancer.

The Board of Selectmen recognized Taikowski at the start of its meeting Wednesday afternoon. First Selectman Ken Flatto said she is a beautiful example of volunteerism, "the spirit of youth of our community."

However, Taikowski and her mother, in a post-meeting interview with the Fairfield Citizen, noted that Catwalk for a Cure, which was held at Vazzy's, truly couldn't have taken place without the support of a ton of people, including students from both Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe High School, as well as Faifield Prep, who planned the event, designed the logo, etc; local businesses that donated clothing and silent auction items for the event; boys, girls and moms who modeled; Total Look Salons, which did all the hair and make-up for the models; and DJ Nomad NYC, who came up from Manhattan to donate his time.

That successful event, however, wasn't a one-time thing, according to Taikowski. It wasn't the capstone of her affiliation with the cancer center before heading off to college. Taikowski, who has a few months of high school left, has been busy planning yet another Catwalk for a Cure.

A new venue has been lined up (the Brooklawn Country Club), a new DJ has been lined up (Cheshire-based Powerstation Events) - since DJ Nomad NYC will be tied up - and if history is at all an indicator, Taikowski's latest fundraising effort will top the close to $15,000 she raised last year. Catwalk for a Cure 2010 will be held May 2, from 6 - 9 p.m. For information, call the cancer center's Fairfield's office at 254-2381 or call the Bridgeport Hospital location at 384-3083.