Maddie, 14, is a young volunteer with a big responsibility in the visitor support area at Hidden Pond, and she relies on a King Snake named Arthur sometimes to break the ice with the children she’s teaching.
“I love snakes,” she said, and Arthur “is a friendly snake.”
Maddie was honored for being the go-to person to assist with programming, showing a genuine appreciation for the topics she discusses, providing visitor support, removing invasive plants and helping to set the standard for animal care volunteers at Hidden Pond Nature Center in Springfield.
Handling Arthur and talking to the children comes naturally for her but there was a time when she had to step up and take control. It was a birthday party, and the party attendees were all there, and Maddie was ready to assist, but when the lead instructor didn’t show up, she was the center of attention. It was a lot of responsibility for a 14-year-old, but Maddie went on and conducted the animal presentation herself. It was a learning opportunity for all. “I became a lot more comfortable with animal talks after that,” she said.
Across Springfield, Nicole Wargel was also recognized with a youth honoree award for her work with the Friends of Lake Accotink Park group. Nicole manages to take on the communications duties for the Friends group while going to law school and doing her two-month internship with the Office of the Navy Judge Advocate General. She continues to perform her duties as FLAP’s communications director without missing a beat.
Nicole also led teams of volunteers in the removal of trash at Lake Accotink and her nomination noted that her work has “contributed to the removal of more trash, leading to a cleaner, more attractive and a safer place for people and wildlife.”
The Elly Doyle Park Service Awards were established in 1988 and recognize Ellamae Doyle's many years of service and accomplishments as a member and chairman of the Park Authority Board. In fiscal year 2021, more than 4,000 volunteers provided 71,467 volunteer service hours to the Park Authority, even as volunteer service opportunities were limited by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other Elly Doyle awardees this year included the Chairman’s Choice award winners Bryan Hill, County Executive, and Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the Fairfax County Director of Health; the Eakin Philanthropy Award went to Wayne and Angela Valis at the Fairfax Memorial Park and Funeral Home and the Friends of Colvin Run Mill; and Dr. Jeffrey Kretsch, Church of the Latter Day Saints and Friends of Accotink Creek were awarded with Elly Doyles as well. There is also a Sally Ormsby Environmental Award, the Mayo Stuntz Cultural Stewardship award and the Harold L. Strickland award.