Chris Ardinger

Teen has his ducks in a row

Teen has his ducks in a row

May 18, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

It's four o'clock in the afternoon.

A small waft of steam rises from Chris Ardinger's "venti" Starbucks coffee.

Wednesday coffee with family in Chambersburg, Pa., has become a much needed break for Ardinger on this busy day.

"Speaking of which," he said, digging in his pocket for the "at least" five post-it notes with the rest of his to-dos for the day.

"I have a meeting for the duck derby and some things to do for the cancer society," he said.

His cousin, Brandon Phillips, a freshman at Shippensburg University, has joined him for coffee.

Ardinger, a James Buchanan High School senior, is not like most 17-year-olds, Phillips said, shaking his head as his cousin digs for the post-its.

Ardinger's days are not filled with video games, girls or athletic practices, but rather with volunteer work, nonprofit meetings and fundraising campaigns.


"To start, he is the most generous person I know," Phillips said. "He gives and gives, and never asks for recognition or anything in return. All he asks is that you care, too."

Getting Ardinger to slow down, even for a cup of coffee, is a difficult task, Phillips said.

Ardinger got bitten by the volunteer bug when he was 9 years old, he said. That was the first year he did the Greencastle Relay for Life and the duck derby, he said.

Little did he know that dressing up like a giant duck was the first step on his path to being perhaps Mercersburg's most involved teenager.

"I know it can upset my mom because I'm never home anymore, but I can't just sit at home and do nothing," he said.

Volunteering with the American Cancer Society is only the tip of the iceberg for Ardinger, who never misses a Tuscarora School Board meeting, and gives time to The Salvation Army, the Chambersburg Toy Mission, the Chamber of Commerce and the American Red Cross when he is not organizing student activities, attending school sporting events or logging internship hours with the cancer society.

Ardinger credits Lon Bender, his "big brother" from Big Brothers Big Sisters, with pushing him into the deep end of volunteering when his grandfather died of pancreatic cancer.

"I was so close to my grandfather," Ardinger said. "He was such a colorful man, full of sayings we all still use today."

Not long after having his first taste of working for free, he took over running the annual duck derby in Greencastle. The rest spiraled from there, he said.

Ardinger's selfless lifestyle is an inspiration, especially knowing that Ardinger went through a traumatic time when his parents divorced, Phillips said.

"He could have been a victim, but he chose not to," he said. "He inspires me to get involved. It is not intimidating, it is refreshing. He's got a lot of our granddad in him."

Hearing his cousin, who is more like a brother, praise his accomplishments almost brought a tear to Ardinger's eye.

Showing emotion is part of caring, Ardinger said.

"My philosophy is that if I'm nice to you, it will be harder for you to be a jerk to me," he said. "I like to think that if I live this way, I will have no enemies."

Q&A with Chris Ardinger

Resides: Mercersburg, Pa.

Occupation: Student

Q: What is your proudest moment?

A: When I found out that I was getting a little brother.

Q: Whom do you most admire, and why?

A: My grandfather and my "big brother" Lon. "They both taught me how to show compassion toward others, and they both helped me achieve who I am today through their involvement with helping others."

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have received, and who gave it to you?

A: "Listen to others' advice, but in the end to follow my own instincts and future plans."

Q: What is the next goal you would like to achieve?

A: Graduate from high school, go off to college, recieve my master's degree in business and communications, and one day start my own buisness.

The Herald-Mail Articles