Congratulations To Our 2023 Volunteer Award Recipients!

The Mountaineers has thousands of amazing volunteers, and each year we recognize a small handful of individuals who have gone above and beyond in their service.
Michelle Song Michelle Song
Volunteer Development Manager
February 01, 2024
Congratulations To Our 2023 Volunteer Award Recipients!

This past year, our volunteers remained at the core of our operations. Thank you to the nearly 3,000 members who volunteered their time during fiscal year 2023 (October 2022-September 2023), and to the many others who supported from afar! Each of you has made a difference.

At the turn of every year, it's our tradition to recognize a handful of volunteers who went above and beyond. This year, in lieu of an organization-wide Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, we recognized our volunteers at their respective branch celebrations.

Of the thousands of dedicated volunteers who support our Mountaineers programming, we are thrilled to celebrate our 2023 Volunteer Award recipients. Join us in congratulating these outstanding volunteers who received a Branch Service Award or Organization-Wide Award.




Audrey’s journey with The Mountaineers began in January 2019 when she embarked on the Basic Mountaineering course through the Bellingham branch. This marked the beginning of an incredible adventure with The Mountaineers community. In the span of just a few short years, Audrey not only completed the Basic Mountaineering and Crag Climbing courses but became a driving force behind our Bellingham climbing community. In 2019, Audrey participated in multiple climbs, volunteered at numerous Bellingham branch meetings, and supported our Mountain Workshops with Vamos Outdoors. Audrey's commitment deepened in 2020 as she began leading day hikes and conditioning hikes and earned her well-deserved Super Volunteer badge. She also earned Super Volunteer badges in 2021 and 2022. Her leadership journey has continued to grow; Audrey has led over 30 trips and courses since 2021. We celebrate not just Audrey's accomplishments but also the spirit of volunteerism she brings to The Mountaineers.



A tremendous volunteer for the Everett Branch, Andy is a versatile outdoor enthusiast, contributing significantly to a range of activities including scrambling, climbing, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and avalanche education. Andy served as the Everett Scramble Chair for over two years (until 2020) and was responsible for creating the Friction Slabs field trip, a valuable addition to enhance student progression. A true Super Volunteer, Key Leader, and Key Instructor, Andy's involvement extends far and wide as a  leader, instructor, and active participant in numerous lectures and field trips. Most notably, Andy has led or co-led over 20 alpine and winter scrambles since 2015.



A dedicated member of The Mountaineers since 2016, Lori currently serves as the Foothills Branch Secretary and Foothills Communications Chair. Recognized as a 2023 Super Volunteer and Key Instructor, Lori's commitment extends back to 2019 when she earned her first Super Volunteer badge. Since then, she has earned Super Volunteer status each year and was recognized as a Key Instructor in 2022. Lori’s contributions are multifaceted. She is a prolific Hike and Urban Walk Leader, a vital administrator for the GoHike course, and an instructor for the Foothills On-Trail Navigation course. Beyond her outdoor expertise, Lori is a certified yoga instructor and holds a Mindful Outdoor Guide certification which she integrates into her yoga hikes, urban walks, and educational presentations. Lori puts mindfulness at the center of the outdoor experiences and leadership opportunities she participates in, embodying a holistic and innovative approach to outdoor engagement.



Jordan joined The Mountaineers in 2019 and graduated the Basic Alpine Climbing course that same year.  Ever since, he has been a dedicated leader in the Kitsap Branch, recognized as a Key Leader and Key Instructor for two years and a Super Volunteer for the last three years. During his time with the branch, Jordan has chaired the Kitsap Navigation Committee for three years (including re-designing the course to fit a new field trip location and mentoring the incoming chair), led climbs on both glacier and rock, taught modules in the Basic Alpine Climbing course, and supported the organization as a Qualified Youth Leader. Through all of this, he worked through the Intermediate Climbing course, which he graduated in 2023.



In addition to being recognized as this year’s Olympia Branch Service Award recipient, Donna has also earned the 2023 Mountaineers Service Award, showcasing her outstanding contributions to the organization. Please find her accolades for this well-deserved recognition below.



Since embarking on her volunteer journey in 2016 through the Intensive Basic Alpine Climbing course, Emma has made substantial contributions to The Mountaineers, leaving a lasting positive impact on the experiences of activity and course participants. Emma is a versatile and skilled trip leader for various activities, including backpacking, hiking, climbing, cross-country skiing, scrambling, bikepacking, and Global Adventures. Despite the challenges of 2020 when many Mountaineers operations were paused, Emma has remained a Super Volunteer every year since 2016. As the current Chair of the Seattle Bikepacking Committee, which she started in 2022 with the support of the Tacoma Bikepacking Committee, Emma has demonstrated remarkable dedication to the course’s success and growth. Her leadership has garnered gratitude and admiration from leaders, volunteers, and participants who appreciate her impressive leadership and teaching style, abundance of energy, and ability to create a positive learning environment for diverse groups.


$R5QK1LM.jpgSince joining The Mountaineers in 2016, Shawn's involvement has been nothing short of remarkable. Starting with hiking and snowshoeing, he rapidly expanded his involvement with the organization to include scrambling and winter camping. Shawn has generously volunteered as an instructor for various courses, such as Tacoma Winter Camping, Snowshoeing, Intensive Basic Climbing, and Seattle Alpine Scrambling. Shawn was instrumental in forming Tacoma’s inaugural Bikepacking Committee. In 2021, Shawn took on the role of Chair for the Tacoma Alpine Scrambling Committee, leading a comprehensive overhaul of the course curriculum amid COVID constraints. As a Super Volunteer from 2018 to 2023, a Key Leader in 2021, and Key Instructor in 2022 and 2023, Shawn's dedication shines through as a Scramble, Snowshoe, Hike, Backpack, Bikepack, and Glacier Rope Leader. Shawn's impact on Mountaineers branches and beyond is immeasurable. His consistent coaching, teaching, and mentoring embody the volunteer spirit, reflecting a steadfast commitment to serving The Mountaineers community.


This year we are excited to recognize two volunteers as Outdoor Center Service Award recipients: Cindy Freedman with the Stevens Lodge and Jim Fahey with the Meany Lodge.


Cindy Freedman

For the past nine years, Cindy has been a dedicated volunteer at Stevens Lodge where she skillfully prepares delicious meals for fifty people at a time. Mountaineers eagerly sign up on weekends when she's in charge. This past summer marked her return after a three-year hiatus, during which PCT thru-hikers once again found refuge at the lodge. Cindy discovered her true calling as a Trail Angel, going above and beyond by taking hikers to Leavenworth, providing crucial information on fire closures via text messages through InReach, cooking fresh steamer clams, and, most notably, delivering treats to hikers on the trail near Stevens Pass. The trail and lodge magic she creates never ceases to amaze everyone involved.

 $RGNH4ST.jpegJim Fahey

Jim is an exceptional volunteer at Meany Lodge with a commitment to The Mountaineers community that spans 25 years. Since 1998, he has been a beacon of dedication and service, leaving an indelible mark on the Meany Lodge community. His tireless efforts as a volunteer have not only enriched the lodge experience but have fostered a sense of camaraderie and warmth among all who have had the privilege of crossing paths with him and his wife, Alicia Fahey. Jim's unwavering dedication, leadership, and commitment to The Mountaineers community was underscored by his recent recognition as a 2022 and 2023 Key Leader and a 2023 Super Volunteer. Jim's impact goes beyond the lodge's day-to-day operations. He has led over 40 stewardship work parties over the years and has supported youth break camps at the lodge, demonstrating a deep investment in the preservation and enhancement of this cherished Mountaineers haven. From his hands-on involvement in lodge operations to his stewardship initiatives and commitment to creating a welcoming environment for youth, Jim embodies the spirit of volunteerism that lies at the heart of The Mountaineers and Meany Lodge.




During his decade leading hikes with The Mountaineers, Richard has led a remarkable 389 trips and has volunteered over 2,900 hours - with nearly 1,050 of those hours from fiscal year 2023. Richard has been a Key Leader and Super Volunteer since 2015. In fiscal year 2023, Richard led or co-led over 85 trips and impacted more than 205 unique Mountaineers. As noted in this year’s award nominations, “I don't know anyone else in The Mountaineers who contributes more time and passion to the organization as a volunteer.”

As an exemplary hike leader, Richard goes above and beyond to orchestrate hikes that coincide with peak wildflowers or fall colors. Through these carefully curated trips, he not only introduces people to the local flora and ecology but imparts his wealth of knowledge as a plant specialist. Richard's devotion to sharing his expertise has earned him a dedicated following of enthusiasts who eagerly join his hikes. In Richard’s recent trip feedback, one participant shared: “Rich sets the bar high for leaders. He is welcoming and personable. He knew all of the wildflowers' names, the area's geology, and communicated with us regularly [...] What an amazing volunteer.”

Richard truly embodies his motto: “Hike the hike you want to hike.” On every trip, he creates a welcoming and emotionally safe environment. Richard goes to great lengths to ensure that all participants feel at ease with their own abilities, allowing them to fully enjoy every aspect of the hiking experience.


CeCe (third from left, in pink) with MAC students.

CeCe has been a regular volunteer with the Seattle MAC and other Youth Clubs programs since 2015, helping foster a safe space for youth of all abilities and supporting students at the crag and beyond. She frequently spoils our Youth Club students with homemade treats, imparts valuable life advice, and emphasizes the importance of never neglecting play in our busy lives. In addition, CeCe has led and/or instructed the Seattle Branch’s Introduction to Rock Climbing Course since 2017, which is a gateway for many new members to a lifetime of climbing.

CeCe is a 2022 and 2023 Super Volunteer, contributing nearly 500 volunteer hours to Mountaineers programs in the past two years. In fiscal year 2023, CeCe led or instructed 32 activities for The Mountaineers, including helping with the snow and rock workshops for the Seattle Alpine Scrambling course; leading field trips and workshops for the Seattle Intro to Rock course; and supporting a wide variety of Youth Club climb nights, workshops, and field trips. Our Youth Clubs staff frequently receive rave reviews about CeCe’s leadership and instruction. She is eager to jump in and support our Youth Clubs programs, and is equally great at asking for help when she needs it - CeCe is never afraid to send an email with questions and is always quick to respond.

When she's not teaching or climbing, CeCe is busy raising funds to maintain and build our climbing access trails through the Washington Climber’s Coalition. The PNW climbing community, including all of us at The Mountaineers, have a lot to thank CeCe for. Thank you, CeCe!



A Mountaineers member since 2013, Donna has held numerous leadership roles across the Olympia Branch and is currently serving as the Chair for the Olympia Hiking and Backpacking Committee. Donna’s dedication has made a lasting impression upon our community. As one of her recent trip participants shared, “Donna is one of a kind.”

Donna’s first Mountaineers engagement was as a student of the Wilderness Skills course in 2013. As she witnessed her course instructors' dedication to volunteerism, she was inspired to follow in their footsteps and began volunteering as a Hike Leader the following year. In 2015, Donna made a significant impact by establishing the Olympia Branch Conditioning Hiking Series course. For six years, she meticulously administered this course, guiding and inspiring many Mountaineers to embrace the fun facets of hiking and outdoor exploration. Donna’s extensive list of volunteer activities is a testament to her generous spirit.

Donna has exhibited extraordinary leadership by serving as Co-Chair of the Hiking and Backpacking Committee from 2015 to 2021, and she recently stepped back into this role in January 2023. Her leadership has been instrumental in fostering a welcoming environment for new members, providing essential training, and facilitating a nurtured introduction to hiking and backpacking adventures. As noted in her nomination for the Service Award, “Her volunteer work and her outdoors activities are all for the joy and helpfulness of it […] She is in it for the long haul for her Mountaineers community.”



Like the most epic mountains of the Pacific Northwest, legends are forged over many years. The Mountaineers Legend Award recognizes those extraordinary individuals who have advanced our mission in exceptional, countless ways over the years. By leading courageously, giving generously, and sharing selflessly, Mountaineers Legends inspire others to become their best selves through the transformative power of the outdoor experience.

This is the third time we are presenting the Legend Award to a Mountaineers leader. It is with great pleasure and deep admiration that we honor the remarkable achievements of Don Heck, a steadfast volunteer of The Mountaineers for more than four decades. Since joining the club in 1979, Don’s unwavering dedication and generous contributions have had a profound and lasting impact on our community.

Don's leadership journey within The Mountaineers began as an Everett Climbing Committee Trip Leader and Course Instructor. For numerous years, Don inspired and guided countless climbers along their own paths to adventure. His commitment to our mission is further evidenced by his leadership across the Everett Branch as the Climbing Committee Chair, Basic and Intermediate Climbing Course Chair, Treasurer, and Branch Chair. His extraordinary dedication was further recognized with the Everett Branch Larry Ingalls Distinguished Service Award in 1989, a testament to the profound impact he has had on his branch.

The depth of Don's service extends well beyond the Everett Branch. Over his 44 years of dedicated service to The Mountaineers, Don has consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership. He has served on the Mountaineers Board of Directors, including serving as our Board President from 1992 to 1994. Don was recognized with The Mountaineers Service Award not just once, but twice, in both 2000 and 2015. In recent years, he continued to lend his expertise and financial acumen as The Mountaineers Treasurer from 2019 to 2022, ensuring the sound management of our resources and helping guide the organization’s finances during the most challenging days of the pandemic. To top it off, he was also deservedly named a Super Volunteer in 2020 and 2021 and to this day, Don serves on five Mountaineers board-chartered committees.

Don Heck is not just a member of The Mountaineers; he is an embodiment of our core values. We are deeply grateful for Don and honored to recognize him as the recipient of The Mountaineers Legend Award.


Thank you once more to our 2023 Branch Service and Org-Wide Award recipients for their dedication to our community. We would also like to extend our gratitude to all Mountaineers volunteers who go above and beyond to make a difference across our branches. Thank you!