Brightest Stars Ceremony Recognizes Idaho’s Volunteers

Seventy-four outstanding volunteers from throughout the state were recently honored by Lt. Gov. Brad Little at Idaho’s Brightest Stars awards ceremony in Boise.

The volunteers were nominated for their contributions in seven categories – Business, Individual, Nonprofit/Civic Organization, Senior Citizen, Student, Teacher/Professor and Veteran. All were nominated by fellow Idahoans for their extraordinary volunteer efforts.

The winners were:


John Harrington Burns Brightest Stars award winner

John Harrington Burns, photo courtesy Doug Brown

John Harrington Burns depicts what it means to be a lifelong volunteer.  A World War II Navy veteran, John is the founder of the Rock of Honor in Meridian, which honors the 66 veterans from Meridian who were killed or died from wounds suffered in action.  John is also the founder of the Freedom Museum in Manassas, Virginia, where he served on the board for many years.  In addition to his volunteer contributions, John is also the author of two books and writes a weekly column entitled “One Vet’s View” for the Valley Times Newspaper.  Although John is 90 years old, you would never know by his active engagement in the community and service to others. 

Senior Citizen:

Dr. David McClusky Brightest Stars award winner

Dr. David McClusky, photo courtesy Doug Brown

Dr. David McClusky has spent his life caring for others whether it be as a full-time physician, or a community volunteer for the past 34 years. In addition to working full time, McClusky volunteered more than 550 hours last year.  He volunteers twice a week providing free medical care for poor and uninsured individuals in South-Central Idaho. McClusky is passionate about taking care of those with cancer, serving as a volunteer physician for children with cancer and founding Camp Rainbow Gold, a summer camp for kids with cancer.  He has founded multiple community clinics and served on the board of Blue Cross and the American Cancer Society just to name a few.  According to his nominator, “Dr. McClusky has changed more lives, helped individuals and families with medical problems, and saved more lives than anyone else I know in South Central Idaho.”


Oakley Junior High teacher Julie Richardson not only helps students during the school day, but helps ensure their success after hours.  Julie is active in the Oakley afterschool program where she helps students with career decisions and with requesting college financial aid.  She was instrumental in developing and supporting a student entrepreneur group called Santa’s workshop, which gives students firsthand experience in running a business.  Last year students spent the summer selling items to earn money for the school library.  Thanks to her volunteerism, students see themselves as leaders in their community.


Joey Thomasson has been volunteering as long as he can remember, becoming actively engaged as a volunteer in the third grade.  Joey is involved in the Lewiston community, volunteering more than 570 hours for a variety of organizations including the Lewis-Clark State College Kid’s College, the Lewiston Youth Advisory Commission and the Jennifer Junior High School Student Council.  According to his mother “Joey has always loved helping people.  He wanted to start a charity of his own for several years, but wasn’t sure what to do…he just knew he wanted to somehow help people with cancer.”  Joey has not only started his own charity, but has provided comfort and hope for those battling cancer, making and distributing more than 100 blankets to cancer patients in 2016.  A personal story was shared in Joey’s application.  “I recently had a dear friend die from cancer.  I talked with Joey about her shortly before her death and he made a blanket for her and I took him to deliver it.  He sat with her and they talked. I can safely say Joey brought comfort to someone during the last season of her life.”


Ginny Gobel has turned volunteering into a full-time job, volunteering 32 hours per week in the last year!  Ginny is fully committed to establishing a program in Boise to support the recovery community and their families.  She serves as a spokesperson for substance abuse disorders, and spends most of her days in meetings, conferences, and serving on boards to support the recovery community.  She also serves as a leader in establishing a lasting positive impact on the Boise recovery community, establishing such programs as the Phoenix MultiSport, Learn to Cope and “Blinders Off” website and blog, which provides parents awareness of adolescent drug use.  According to her nomination her “commitment to fostering growth and community for those in recovery in our area is unparalleled.”


Hewlett Packard promotes volunteerism with their employees, providing paid leave for employees to plan and take part in volunteer activities.  In 2016, HP employees contributed more than 600 hours performing community volunteer work for the Idaho Foodbank alone. Projects included packing food for emergency food pantries, building senior food boxes for Idaho’s seniors who struggle with hunger, and building backpacks to feed children in need.  They also provide volunteers to the Idaho Foodbank to provide technical assistance and training to Foodbank staff.   

Nonprofit/Civic Organization:

Book it Forward Brightest Stars award winner

Book it Forward, photo courtesy Doug Brown

Three years ago a small group of women saw a pressing need in their community and set about to do something about it.  As a result Book it Forward was developed.  Book it Forward is a statewide program that has provided more than 200,000 gently used and new books to Idaho children since its inception.  In 2016 alone, the organization collected more than 120,000 books to provide to nonprofits throughout southwest Idaho and Twin Falls.  

–Serve Idaho, Idaho Department of Labor