A Hood River youth group that regularly delivers gifts to hospice patients received a wide ribbon of thanks on Friday from the governor.
The Youth Heart of Hospice Program received the Region 6 Outstanding Youth Volunteer Program honor in a ceremony at Salem Conference Center.
Eight members of the group, also known as YoHoH's, and coordinator Jayne Mederios of Heart of Hospice accepted the honor from Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes.
The group will receive a $450 donation from sponsor Wells Fargo, according to Kathleen Joy, executive director of the governor's Commission on Voluntary Action and Service.
The Volunteer Awards recognized individuals and organizations for their dedication, commitment and determination in promoting and supporting volunteerism throughout Oregon with the purpose of strengthening Oregon communities, according to Grace Westbrook of the Volunteer Commission.
"It was quite the honor to be honored by the governor of Oregon for something that started such a little time ago," said Jonathan Goatcher, a Hood River Valley High School senior who has been involved since YoHoH was formed four years ago.
"We're pretty young as youth organizations go, and not that established like National Honor Society or some others, so I felt it was a really great honor to get that kind of nomination so early on."
Jill Goatcher, founder of the YoHOHs (a 2010 HRVHS grad) flew up for the award luncheon from Occidental College in California, where she attends school.
Also attending was Jodi Goatcher, executive director of Heart of Hospice (and Jodi's and Jonathan's mother) and Cathy Carter, executive director of Heart of Hospice Foundation.
At holidays, YoHoH members take gifts and decorate living spaces for patients in their homes or at assisted living facilities.
"By going to homes of patients on hospice they witness firsthand how giving of themselves enriches the lives of those in need," said Wendy Herman of Summit Career Center, and YoHoH advisor, in a letter of support for the group's nomination.
Herman called YoHoH "a great club that provides not only the elderly and hospice patients a great feeling from kindness, but it provides our students a great sense or pride and awareness in knowing they are doing something to help those that can no longer do for themselves."
Carly Peterson, also a fourth-year YoHoH and HRVHS senior, said, "It was really inspiring to be in that group and hear about all those other winners because they had done remarkable work in their communities.
"To be considered part of them was really motivating to do more," Peterson said.
"The whole experience was inspiring," she said. "We heard about how other people have been helping communities, so that made us consider what more can we do, a more hand-made, hands-on approach to comforting and visiting with patients."
This month, the group is planning to make cards and handmade gifts, "to give it a more personal touch," she said.
Peterson said she was inspired by Matt Ferguson, the winner of Outstanding Youth Volunteer for Oregon, who makes comfort gift bags for women going to first weeks of chemotherapy for breast cancer.
"His own mother had breast cancer so he wanted to make sure no one felt alone in their first weeks," Peterson said.
Goatcher said the biggest lesson he has gained from his time in YoHoH is this: "With age comes wisdom. Definitely."
Jodi and Gary Goatcher founded Heart of Hospice, and Jonathan said, "I've kind of grown up with hospice.
"I just love spending time with the patients," he said. "The smiles on their faces are priceless. It's just nice to help others and do your share. The gifts really make a difference to the patients."
Peterson called the experience of visiting hospice patients "extremely humbling; just seeing how they don't have a huge ego, so it makes me consider my priorities and what I consider more important.
"I would like to be as content as some of the patients," she said.