Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande, right, and his wife, Jaishree Deshpande, third from left, with, from left, David Parker of Merrimack Valley Sandbox, Will Andronico of Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico, top award winner Erin Freeborn of Juvenile Court Restorative Justice Diversion and keynote speaker Stephen Kaufer of TripAdvisor at the 2013 Sandbox Summer Accelerator Awards Ceremony.

Merrimack Valley Sandbox, funded by an Andover couple’s foundation, doled out $30,000 last week to the top entrepreneurs in the 2013 Sandbox Summer Accelerator Awards Ceremony at the Everett Mills in Lawrence.

The event marked the conclusion of the Sandbox Summer Accelerator, a three-month program that helped 16 early-stage entrepreneurs move their businesses and nonprofits forward through workshops, mentor assistance, space and funding.

Stephen Kaufer, co-founder and CEO of TripAdvisor, gave the evening’s keynote speech.

Erin Freeborn of Newton, with Juvenile Court Restorative Justice Diversion, Inc, a nonprofit that works with juvenile offenders in Lowell, won the evening’s top prize of $8,000. Freeborn says the funding will help her organization increase its caseload and aid more Middlesex County juveniles.

Other prize winners were Aaron Burke and Russ Queen of Hamilton with Paraware, LLC, a device that tracks the wear of running shoes, $6,000; Leslie Rivera, formerly of Lowell with Little Leaders family child care that supports healthy growth and development for children in Lawrence, $5,000; Lowell native Ron Ayotte with I4class, a web-based learning system, $5,000; Greg Page of Lowell with Merrimack Analysis Group, which conducts online security presentations and seminars, $3,000; and Lucky Henry of North Andover with College Power, a marketing and advertising agency to help attract more college student customers, $3,000.

Also, Brad Durbin of North Hampton, N.H., received $5,000 in legal services from Edwards Wildman law firm for Ubersimple, a software company that has developed “AppPack” mobile app and website to promote referrals in the mortgage and real estate industry, and Marcia Strauss of Chelmsford won access to Sandbox space for six months for Lowell Naturalization and Citizenship Services, a test preparation program for immigrants.

Merrimack Valley Sandbox is an initiative designed to strengthen the ecosystem in Lowell and Lawrence around entrepreneurship and leadership. It is funded by the Deshpande Foundation led by Andover residents Gururaj “Desh” and Jaishree Deshpande, who have encouraged the use of entrepreneurship and innovation as catalysts for sustainable change in the U.S., India and Canada since 1996.

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