North Dakota girl with a goat wins volunteer of the year

Every Friday during the school year, Peyton Marquart hops off the bus in rural North Dakota and strolls into Good Samaritan Society – Lakota hoping to help.

“I like volunteering here because you get to see a lot of people and they’re fun,” Peyton says about Society staff and residents located 63 miles west of Grand Forks.

The 12-year-old girl checks in with the activities director or her grandma Betty Paplow, a nurse manager, and then gets right to work.

“Depending on what the day is like, she’ll play Yahtzee. She’ll do some cartwheels, just entertain,” says Maggie Marquart, Peyton’s mom and a former Society CNA.

“Then the goat thing started a few years ago.”

'Volunteering is really at the heart of our mission'

Peyton lives on a farm nearby and has a few goats. Recently, she started sharing her animals with the residents.

“When they see her bringing the goats or when they see her smile, they really light up,” Society administrator Anna Halvorson says. “There’s just so many studies out there about intergenerational interaction and how important it is to have young people interact with the older generations.”

When the girl with the goat stops by her room, resident Velma Iverson says it, “makes me feel kind of special.”

Velma adds when kids chip in, “they think about other people and gives them something great to do.”

Getting volunteers to the long-term care center can be a challenge, however. Anna is grateful for Peyton and hopes she inspires others to give of their time.

“Volunteering is really at the heart of our mission. It’s how we started and it’s really who we are from our very beginning,” Anna says.

“They say there’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”

National Ever Forward Volunteer Champion

Dedication to that mission is earning Peyton honors as the Society’s National Ever Forward Volunteer Champion. The oldest of three children learned the news when leaders surprised her with a baby goat wearing a special note.

“I broke down in tears. I was so happy,” Peyton says about the gifted goat and the award. “Being the volunteer champion makes me feel very happy.”

Proud of his daughter, Peyton’s dad Derrick says the goat is more than welcome at the family home. Although Derrick laughs there wasn’t much of a choice as to if they’d keep the pet affectionately named Pickles.

“I don’t cry much and tears started to come out,” Derrick says. “It was eye opening to me how important it is.

“I think she does it just for the satisfaction of seeing joy in other people. You can just see that about her. She’s always doing things to help other people out.”

'One big happy family'

It’s in her blood. Peyton comes from a long line of caregivers. In addition to her mom and grandma spending time at the Lakota center, her two great aunts and a cousin also work there.

“It’s because of family legacies and family lines like this that we’re able to survive and thrive. I’m forever grateful to Peyton and her family,” Anna says.

Great aunts Barb Kjorsvik, a CNA, and Pam Burkland, a restorative nursing aide, each boast more than 30 years of service to the Society.

“Here at the Good Sam we’re just one big happy family,” Barb says.

Pam adds there’s “no other job like it for sure. When you visit with the residents, all their knowledge and stories are some of my favorite stories.”

A much-needed registered nurse, second cousin Hayley Ross is proud to carry on the family tradition with Peyton.

“It’s just really nice to see the next generation get involved in the facility and see Peyton show her passion with the residents,” Hayley says.

Future nursing assistant

Not set on a future career, Peyton does plan to serve as a CNA during high school.

“When I think about the Good Samaritan Society, I think of people who are helping and being really kind,” Peyton says.

In the meantime, she’ll try to lay low while continuing to volunteer.

“I like to get a little attention but not a lot,” Peyton says laughing.

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