Hettinger EMT earns 2013 Stars of Life award
Chris Schauer knew something fishy was going on when his colleagues at the Volunteer West River Ambulance Service encouraged him to go to the state convention on his off year.
He knew something else was strange when his wife, Ronda, said she would be at the banquet and again when he walked into the banquet and saw his parents. That's when he knew something good was about to happen.
"We had to try to get him to go," Ronda said. "He had other things planned for the day, so it was kind of a fun challenge to get him there."
Chris was the 2012 recipient of North Dakota EMS Provider of the Year award from the North Dakota EMS Association, which automatically made him a 2013 Stars of Life award recipient from the American Ambulance Association.
"I think he was pretty surprised," Ronda said. "I don't think that's something that anybody ever expects to get -- it's pretty humbling."
He received the 2012 award in April of that year and made the Stars of Life trip nearly a year later.
Chris and Ronda left their five children in North Dakota with her 70-year-old father and headed to Washington, D.C., in March to attend the Stars of Life celebration and to meet with the state's congressional delegation.
"Any support that can come from the state or federal level for all those volunteers -- the ambulance doesn't exist without them," Chris said. "That was the big thing that we talked about for North Dakota."
He was one of about 80 Stars of Life, who can be paramedics, EMTs, dispatchers, customer service representatives or other operations personnel involved in an ambulance service, said Alex Bouffard, program coordinator with the American Ambulance Association.
North Dakota always sends the Provider of the Year to the next year's Stars of Life event.
"Whether or not they're a paramedic and it's their job or you're a volunteer like Chris, who's an EMT, that's just an extra part of your community service," Ronda said. "It's kind of what makes the day-to-day in your community continue on, and the safety of your community takes a big part."
Chris has been a volunteer EMT since 2005 after completing a year as an ambulance driver, which was an easy transition for him.
"I grew up in a family of medicine," Chris said. "Mom was a nurse, Dad was a doctor -- but yet my field is in agriculture, but I felt comfortable saying I would be able to volunteer on the ambulance side."
He grew up in Hettinger, moved away to pursue an education, first at North Dakota State University and then at Oregon State University. He moved back in 2003.
"I was gone for about 11 years in school in various places and then came back to work for NDSU as an animal scientist here at the Hettinger Research Extension Center," he said. "The EMT thing is the thing you do on the nights, weekends and holidays and I think I'm on call day shift, too, sometimes."
Though Hettinger and Adams County have not been directly impacted by oil the way counties to the north have, the WRAS has become noticeably busier in the eight years Chris has been in EMT.
"There's not a lot of people standing around waiting to be on the ambulance squad," he said of a lack of volunteers. "I think we're typical of most squads. We're functioning but could always use more."
In southwest North Dakota, volunteers are a little easier to find than a full-time paramedic, Chris said.
"If we were fully staffed at the professional level (with) volunteers -- which is largely nights, weekends and holidays -- I think we would be doing all right," he said.
Chris serves the Hettinger community both as a citizen and in his capacity as a director of the NDSU Hettinger Research Extension Center. He is a board member for AHEC, Theater Board, Fair Board, is a Cubmaster for the Hettinger Cub Scouts and plays in the Hettinger Cowboy Band.
"I'm proud of him, he does a lot in our community and I think ambulance and even firemen and some other of those volunteer jobs, people don't really realize the time and the effort they put into doing that for our small communities especially," Ronda said.