September 11, 2006
One local senior is making a difference daily in the lives of senior citizens. Seventeen year old Ben Thacker has been recognized as Volunteer of the Year by Virginia's Health Care Association.
At first glance, Ben Thacker's impressive 6' 7" stature might seem intimidating, but not for residents of the Cedars Nursing Home. After 17 years of volunteering at the center, Ben's presence has become one of the highlights for residents.
"He's a great person, he's very cordial, very helpful and he's just all around nice person," Resident Ruth Estes said.
"Good kid, if I had to take another kid I'd take him," Alfred Cedars joked.
Because of his countless hours spent on yard work, meal deliveries, and construction projects, this year Ben was named Virginia Health Care Association's volunteer of the year. For him, the reward is in the interaction
"I've just made a whole lot of friends here and that's what it's basically all about to me, just making more friends cause there's real people here. That's what I like about volunteering," Ben said.
Longtime friend and baseball coach, Sam Beale, has watched Ben morph into the all-star pitcher he's become today and said he sees the same Ben on the pitchers mound that the Cedar's residents also enjoy.
"You couldn't rattle him, I mean a butterfly could go by him or a train and his heart's going to be the same beat," Beale explained.
It's his calm demeanor that helped Ben lead the Miller School baseball team to a state championship last year. While he doesn't really need the help, residents love to talk sports with the senior and offer him advice
"They've offered me advice sometimes you know, 'stay sharp, be focused,' you know. 'Keep your eye on the ball,' that's one of Al's most favorite ones," Ben said.
With his college days quickly approaching, residents are already dreading the days the spent without their "big buddy."
"He's grown up here and it's like he's one of their kids or their grand kids," Ben's Mom Margaret said.
Ben will be recognized next Saturday at a banquet in Roanoke.