2015 Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and Awards

Each year, the Seattle Branch hosts a dinner to thank all the volunteers across our seven branches. Particularly impactful volunteers are also selected by each branch and the Board of Directors to receive Service and Leadership awards. We applaud the efforts of volunteers to make The Mountaineers a leading conservation and recreation organization in the world!
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
February 04, 2016

Everything accomplished by The Mountaineers as an organization can be credited to the efforts of our volunteers. Our courses, trips, youth programs, and advocacy efforts are fueled by  passionate people who are engaged because they want to be, not because they receive financial motivation. Each year we hold a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner to recognize these tireless individuals.

On Saturday, January 30, 2015, a few hundred volunteers from all seven branches met at the Seattle Program Center to celebrate their efforts, their impact, and each other. This year, Seattle Branch Chair Peter Hendrickson invited the author of Mountaineers Books The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors, James Edward Mills to speak about supporting diversity in the outdoors. James gave a truly inspiring talk about its importance for the future of outdoor recreation. As a journalist and writer, he focuses on stories about outdoor recreation, conservation, and " how to lead a harmonious life in balance with the natural world and the rest of humanity."

James spoke passionately about the barriers - and progress - minorities experience while accessing the natural world. He described how his father had met and supported Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. He connected those efforts to our present-day work to ensure equal access to and enjoyment of the outdoors, pointing to imagery Dr. King used heavily in his "I have a dream speech": 

"...And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring."

James explained the importance of the outdoor experience and its many benefits that connect us to nature and each other. He explained how under-privileged communities don't experience these benefits because of hurdles not faced (or, in many cases, even recognized) by the dominant outdoor culture.
Sophia Danenberg and James Edward Mills 2016 VAD
sophia danenberg, the 1st african-american woman to summit Mount everest and author James edward mills attend the Mountaineers volunteer appreciation dinner

Throughout his talk, James expressed gratitude for the work of our volunteers and encouraged them to reach out to communities who may not access our beloved locations as frequently or as easily as others.

James showed a video of Kai Lightner, the teenage prodigy who is shattering stereotypes and challenging the limited definition of what people have told him is possible as a black athlete by becoming a professional rock climber. Watch the video. 

Following an enthusiastic round of applause and a brief Q&A with James, Education Director Becca Polglase explained how important and inspiring the volunteerism is at The Mountaineers. Plaques were re-presented to each of the Branch and Outdoor Centers Service Award recipients as well as the Organization-wide Service Award and Leader of the Year. 

Organization-wide awards

2015 Leader of the Year - Brian Carpenter

Brian could not attend the event…because he was volunteering as a docent at Mount Rainier.

Brian was listed as an instructor or leader on 57 different activity rosters in 2015 (21 as an Instructor and 36 as a trip leader). He leads snowshoe trips, hikes, backpacks, first aid scenarios, Navigation workshops and more. In addition to all of this, it stands out how much his participants and students appreciate his efforts. Not only is he highly active, but he consistently receives extremely glowing reviews such as: 

  • “Brian not only selects good locations, he is also dedicated to safety and sharing his wilderness knowledge.”
  • “I always have a great time with Brian. And he makes good decisions for the group. I feel safe with him.”
  • “As a trip leader, Brian is capable, prepared, patient, always positive and I appreciate his sense of humor.”
  • “Naturalist trip. Learned something new. Brian inspires enthusiastic learning.”

These are just SOME of the amazing things people have said about Brian as a Leader.

We are grateful, humbled, and thankful that Brian is willing to give so much of his time to this organization in so many ways…all of which is clearly appreciated by his participants and students. 

Brian Carpenter Profile

Mountaineers Service Award - Don Heck

Don has served The Mountaineers in multiple leadership roles over the course of his 36 years of membership, and exemplifies the best of who The Mountaineers are in terms of integrity, passion, and selfless dedication.

He has served in various senior leadership positions: he was Board President from 1992 to 1994 and prior to that he was our Vice President for two years, and treasurer for six.  He was also the Vice President of Publishing for many years.  He worked on two editions of Freedom of the Hills and was a founding member of the Braided River board. He currently serves on the Finance Committee and is an ongoing resource to Mountaineers Books. Don has also been the Everett Branch chair, Everett Branch trustee, Climbing Committee chair, and recipient of the Everett Branch Service Award. 

He has been a personal and professional advisor in helping the publishing division be accountable and successful. During the 2008 financial crash, he helped vet business plans and proposals that allowed Mountaineers Books to remain solvent—and go on to serve the mission in inspiring and sustainable ways.

Mountaineers Books Publisher Helen Cherullo describes Don by saying: "Whenever he is asked, he serves. He is the volunteer who has the organization’s back—in good times—but more importantly, in difficult and trying ones as well. His manner is quiet, reasonable, and respectful—but he is also unrelenting in his expectations for honesty and integrity in his peers. Don has worked for the good of The Mountaineers for many years, supporting the turnaround and move to a 501c3 philanthropic organization, committing to The Mountaineers, Mountaineers Books, and Braided River through personal giving to ensure the future health of our organization."

The Mountaineers would not be where we are today without the commitment, passion, leadership and unbelievable number of hours Don has contributed over the course of many decades. 

Don Hecks Award at 2016 VADBoard President Dan Lauren announces the Mountaineers Service Award

Branch Service Awards

Listed here in geographical order, from north to south, are the names of the volunteers who our branches selected as providing exceptional service to the mission of The Mountaineers 


Sam houston

A Climb Leader and active instructor in Bellingham’s Basic Mountaineering Course every year since 1989, Sam has done just about a little of everything for his Branch over the years and is an active supporter of Branch operations – maintaining a great sense of culture there. He provides an extensive amount of knowledge on field trips, and has been one of their favorite trip leaders. Has led scrambles & climbs since 1990. He is described as a climber who knows how to have fun in the mountains while maintaining group safety. On top of that, he keeps all of the branch’s gear organized, clean, accounted for, and in good condition. Sam is available to provide gear to trip leaders at all hours of the day and night.

Sam Houston at 2015 VAD


Dale Kisker

Dale has been a hero for the Baker Lodge for many years. He has worked to make it accessible to youth groups that use it and project-managed a number of renovations to the property. Recently, he has embraced the task of recruiting new leadership for their committee. As new members and prospective volunteers have come forward to provide support for Lodge operations, Dale has gone to tremendous lengths to meet with them, explain all the intricacies of how it operates, connect them with other volunteers who can train them, and generally do the million different things that many of you know it takes to provide an enjoyable experience for our members. Without his support, coordination, leadership, and easy-going style, Baker Lodge might not be open today for our members and course instructors to utilize. 

 Dale Kisker 2016 VAD


Bernadette Lamarca

As a holder of 3 different leader badges and an integral part of the Everett Branch operations, Bern is so invested in helping The Mountaineers that she called Chris Williams the other day and asked how she could help volunteer at this event. Her offer was soundly rejected and she was told she could do nothing but sit back and enjoy the evening tonight. One participant on her trips said there was “nothing” that could have been improved about their day together, showing how much her participants enjoy what her leadership brings to her trips and the Branch as a whole. In addition to her support and trips, she was one of the first volunteers for youth programs in Everett. An amazing woman and this year’s “Larry Ingalls Distinguished Service Award” winner for the Everett Branch.

Bernadette Lamarca 2015 VAD


Brian Carpenter

 As mentioned above, Brian was selected as the organization-wide Leader of the Year. But it is no surprise that the Seattle Branch Council independently had his name recommended as the Branch Service Award nominee by two different committees. He is reliable and "everywhere" for a number of Seattle Branch committees, serving in a variety of different ways: 

  • He was an "elegant corpse" many times over for First Aid scenarios.
  • A frequent and reliable hike leader 
  • Instructing and leading for backcountry snowshoe trips
  • Instructing with youth programs via "Explorers," in our Tacoma Branch...a reflection of his Boy Scouts of America past.
  • Serving as an instructor n the "Introduction to Navigation" and "Basic Navigation" courses and volunteering to take on leadership for "Intro to Map and Compass. He is also noted as "taking [Seattle] to the mat" with the introduction of a stand-on-it compass rose (take a Navigation Course again if you can't remember what that is!).


Gerry haugen and monty pratt

Foothills wanted to honor and recognize co-recipients and described these as "lifetime" service awards for their young branch. Gerry has been a member since 1992 and an avid Ski Leader with a passion for teaching others safe ski Mountaineering. He has provided steady leadership to the branch in support of Foothill’s Winter Sports programs since the branch was formed and chartered over a decade ago and over these years, has  made contributions as a committee chair, activity leader, course instructor, and course administrator as well as effectively and ably serving as Foothills member of the club Board of Directors. Foothills was proud to honor him and Monty together this year.

Monty joined the Mountaineers in 2008 and is another “Super Volunteer.” Just like Gerry, he is also an integral part of the Foothills Branch Operations, serving on multiple committees. He was an original committee member and activity leader of the Foothills hiking committee. He made significant contributions to the Branch’s first hiking course, the PCT Series, and has been an active hike and backpack leader, and mentor of new leaders in the Branch. In addition, he has assisted the branch with snowshoe and navigation instruction and he also assists with administration of the branch’s Backpacking Building Blocks course. He is noted by participants as being exceptionally well-prepared and providing excellent pre-trip notes to help everyone be successful and enjoy his trips. 

Gerry Haugen and Monty Pratt 2015 VAD


john mackey

John Mackey joined the Mountaineers in 2003, and took the basic mountaineering course in 2004. In 2005, he taught at all of the Seattle basic mountaineering field trips (the Kitsap Branch didn't have a basic class that year). Starting in 2006, John began teaching most of the basic field trips (probably 4 or 5 per year). He is listed as the leader, assistant leader or instructor for over 70 climbs and field trips. By leading all these climbs, John has enabled numerous Kitsap and other branches' basic students to complete the requirements to graduate from the mountaineering course, all while receiving great feedback from students and participants. This is notable because many of the other branches have a hard time providing enough climbs for their students to meet their course requirements. Just this year, John led 13 climbs and field trips (including the ones that didn't summit). When Mike Raymond stepped down from his position, John stepped forward to single-handedly lead the intermediate climbing course for the Kitsap Branch (this is on top of all of the assistance he provides to the basic mountaineering course). John has made a special effort to offer and lead intermediate climbs in order to ensure that the intermediate students also have opportunities to complete their required climbs. We think it's safe to say that the Kitsap Branch might not have a climbing program without John Mackey's dedication and commitment and we are exceptionally grateful. 

John Mackey Profile Pic 2016


sarah holt

Sarah is a climb leader for Tacoma who is actively involved in multiple committees and supportive of all youth efforts. She has shown a dedication and commitment to volunteering with us, ON TOP OF, her duties as a staff member for years. When the Tacoma Branch told us they wanted to make Sarah their Service Award winner, we pushed back a little since she was also a staff member and they were resolute. Her commitment is exceptional. She leads climbs regularly and garners glowing reviews such as: 

  • “Sarah is the best climb leader a student could ask for! She always has a smile on her face and she seems to genuinely care about everyone! Sarah is extremely safe!”
  • “Good call to turn the party around when we did, contrary to what I thought at the time.”
  • “The leader had a great attitude and was just the best time climbing with! I'm fairly new to rock climbing and I felt very comfortable out there on the rock. That allowed me to have a great time and enjoy the summit!!”
Sarah Holt 2016 VAD


carla jonientz

The Olympia Branch selects their Service Award winner with an eye towards outstanding and consistent service. Their Service award Committee is made of the three most recent service award recipients and they all felt strongly that Carla deserved the recognition this year. She joined the Mountaineers in 1985 and is a hike and backpack leader who is an integral supporter of Olympia’s branch operations, serving as a branch chair in the past and remaining on the council as an active contributing member. She has also recently taken a leadership role in getting Family Activities going in Olympia and has recruited, literally, dozens of Qualified Youth Leaders for their Branch – some of whom were previous members who renewed their memberships just to support Carla’s efforts. She is described by recent Branch Chair Greg Lovelady as: 

  • Bright, enthusiastic, always cheerful, and very supportive of others
  • Soft spoken, thoughtful, and a strong leader who also adores her family and grandkids.
  • Lives in an old house that is on Olympia’s Register of Historic Properties that she has lovingly restored it and hosts many Mountaineers’ meetings there.

Carla Jonientz 2015 VAD

Special Recognition - Safety Chair Mindy Roberts

After all the yearly awards were given out, an extremely special "thank you" was delivered by Board President Dan Lauren to outgoing Safety Committee Chair Mindy Roberts. Dan noted how Mindy had been involved for years in developing and administering  our incident-reporting system as Chair of our organization-wide Safety Committee. She has taken on extraordinary obligations in an effort to make sure our leaders are getting useful feedback and learning from each other's accidents and "near-misses." He then awarded her with "something money couldn't buy," a climbing helmet that was signed by the Board of Directors and members of the Safety Committee. Thank you Mindy!

Mindy Roberts at 2016 VAD

Congratulations to All OUR volunteers on a great year - THank you so much

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Helen Cherullo
Helen Cherullo says:
Sat, Feb 6, 2016 12:41 PM

Thank you to all the volunteers and leaders for their creativity, passion, and time-- making the outdoors accessible through classes, mentoring, and a rich sense of community! I love the commitment to greater inclusiveness as well. The best is yet to come!