(WRCB) – A Chattanooga volunteer will be honored at a national ceremony Tuesday evening.

Jeanna Richelson will represent the Tennessee Valley at the 2012 Jefferson Awards Gala in Washington, DC.

Eleven years ago, oral cancer robbed Richelson of her ability to speak, but not of her spirit. After fighting the disease for years and a series of surgeries, Jeanna set out to help others like her.

She established the first oral cancer support group in the State of Tennessee, raising $18,000 in their first charity walk – the most ever raised on an initial walk in the nation.

This petite woman with the infectious smile finds peace in the hope she gives and receives from others.

"We're here for a reason, every one of us," she said. "Maybe this is my reason. But it's been a hard, hard journey."

Richelson will join local honorees from across the country along with national honorees, who were named at an event in New York earlier this year.

Known as the "Nobel Prize for public service," the Jefferson Awards honor extraordinary individuals and companies whose profound achievements and commitment to their communities are making the world a better place to live.

Among the 2012 honorees are NFL Player Engagement Vice President and former All-Pro defensive back Troy Vincent, Tribeca Film Festival, accepted by cofounders Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.

"This year's Jefferson Awards recipients have made real and lasting differences in the lives of countless people," said Sam Beard, who with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and U.S. Senator Robert Taft, Jr. founded the Jefferson Awards, now in their 40th year. "Their remarkable contributions – in fundraising, activism, community service and the arts – nobly reflect one of the founding qualities of our republic: a commitment to help one another and serve the greater good. The Jefferson Awards is proud to bestow on them this fitting tribute in recognition of the breadth and scope of their extraordinary achievements."

WRCB's Antwan Harris is travelling with Richelson and will report from the Jefferson Awards Gala in Washington.