Rick Vale recognized as DCI Volunteer of the Year

The Cadets ever grateful for his selfless dedication

Drum Corps International announced Thursday, June 30 that Rick Vale has been selected as one of three 2011 Volunteers of the Year. Rick Vale.jpg

 “There are so many deserving people of this award. I’m just blown away,” Rick said as he helped the Cadets’ drivers scrub the staff bus. “I’m so, so honored. I never thought I’d ever be deserving of something like this.”

Rick has been humbly serving on The Cadets medical staff for 12 years now, and he’s played an invaluable role. 

“Rick is the reason that we’ve come such a long way in providing a safe, healthy environment for all participants of The Cadets,” said Justin Heimbecker, assistant director of corps, in his letter of nomination. “Rick has served as a trainer’s trainer;” he’s been a mentor to many trainers and medical interns who have come through The Cadets medical staff, and he’s taken “the level of service provided by the Cadets to an entirely new level.” 

Vale has a degree in Health Sciences. In the real world, he works as the department head for Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, a large teaching hospital in Hartford, Conn. He performs a combination of duties there, from clinical work, to research, to administration.

While Vale began volunteering for The Cadets in 1999, he’s loved the corps for much longer.

 “I was actually there in 1983 in Miami when The Cadets won their first championship. It was the most amazing thing,” he said. “And it was when I saw them up close that I really just fell in love with the organization. I got the chance to really see how hard these people work.”

Vale marched in the New York Skyliners in the 1970s, and he says he was always interested in DCI. He followed The Cadets as a fan through the 80s and 90s, bringing his wife and son Chris to shows with him. “We spent lots of time watching the corps warm up in parking lots, and my son became very interested in drums,” said Vale.

In 1999, Rick’s son Chris made The Cadets drumline; Rick drove him to rehearsals and began helping out where he was needed.

“I really can’t cook very well,” he laughed as he thought back to his start on the food truck. “I think I did that for about a week when I first started out, and I was the drink man – I mixed all the drinks for the corps.”

Soon Vale started driving for The Cadets at night, until Joan Borden, the corps nurse for many years, caught wind of his experience in the medical field. “Under her, I learned ‘drum corps medicine,’ which is a mixture of athletic medicine and public health. And I’ve been on the medical side since then,” he said.

Chris Vale marched in the corps for five summers, from 1999 to 2003, and worked on the percussion staff for a few years after that. Rick has stuck with The Cadets even after his son moved on. 

“I’m just doing my part,” he often tells Justin. “The performers, the staff, you guys are the heroes.” 

In his letter, Heimbecker praised Vale’s dedication to the organization and his selfless desire to help in any way possible. “Rick has flown himself in to nearly every single winter camp for more than a decade, supervising the medical evaluations of the applicants and members, handling supply inventories and budgets, collecting and reviewing medical paperwork, and ensuring that if there is anything that anyone needs while they are with The Cadets, Rick is there to save the day,” he said. 

To members of the corps, Rick is a father figure and friend, someone who will always listen and help them with a smile, whether they need a Band-Aid, a bag of ice or a more serious diagnosis.

“He is the kindest man I have ever encountered,” Heimbecker added. “Whether we are discussing ‘his’ Red Sox and ‘my’ Phillies … or the corps member he spent the night with in the hospital, Rick has a way of making other people feel that they are the only thing that matter to him at that moment.” 

But Rick Vale doesn’t take the credit. “I was just overwhelmed that anybody would select me for this thing,” he said. “I just like to come back here and give back to the activity that I got to enjoy myself for so many years. Everyone associated with this corps keeps me coming back. The volunteers, the admin staff, the instructional staff, the members – everyone comes from their different worlds and they’re all just so dedicated to what they do. I couldn’t think of working with another group of people.”

Thanks Rick, from all of the members, staff and volunteers who you’ve helped, encouraged and looked out for over the years. We are truly grateful for your time, your aid and your kindness. Congratulations on your well-deserved award!

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