youth volunteer

Volunteer Virginia Ward takes field notes while volunteering at a research site on the parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway officials are pleased to announce that park volunteer Virginia Ward has been awarded the 2019 Youth Award as part of the George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service, an annual recognition of volunteer excellence in the National Park Service.

This national award celebrates outstanding service performed by a volunteer under 18 years of age, in fiscal year 2019.

Ward, a 15-year-old from Fairview, has a deep love and respect for the wild places tucked among the craggy rock outcroppings along the Parkway. Ward has been volunteering at Blue Ridge Parkway for three years where she assists the park’s plant ecologist, Dr. Chris Ulrey, with monitoring critically imperiled plant species.

“In my 21 years with the National Park Service, I have not encountered a young person that so inspired and filled me with hope about the future,” said Dr. Ulrey. Ward’s assistance has been a welcome gift to the rare plant program on the Parkway, making it possible to complete the important monitoring work more safely and efficiently.

The VIP (Volunteers-in-Parks) program was established under National Park Service (NPS) Director George Hartzog 50 years ago as a formal opportunity for the public to share their gifts, talents, and time with the agency in support of the NPS mission.

The Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service recognizes the exemplary contributions of these very important people. Learn about the additional volunteers honored from parks across the country at

For more information about volunteering on the Blue Ridge Parkway, visit the park website at or email the park’s volunteer coordinator at

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