PERU - The courage of one local boy has not gone unnoticed.
The Vermont Air National Guard has recognized 9-year-old Christopher Goheens of Peru with their Young Hero Award. The award is given on a regular basis by VTANG to children who are treated at Vermont Children's Hospital in Burlington, Vt., honoring "the courage and dignity of real-life young heroes whose battle against disease or injury might otherwise go unrecognized."
Christopher, who was nominated for the award by Airman Megan Coons, suffered from complications from hypolastic left heart syndrome last December, and spent most of the time since undergoing procedures and operations at both Vermont Children's Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital. The award is the latest recognition for Christopher, who was also chosen to be a featured speaker at the Plattsburgh Start! Heart Walk Sept. 25.
"I was really excited. I really liked [the award]," said Christopher, who was humble in talking about the honor.
Christopher's mother, Amy Goheens, said her son was shy about receiving the recognition, but thankful.
"He knew he was getting it, but he didn't know exactly what it was for," said Amy. "Once he warmed up to the people, he talked to them a lot, and was very proud."
The award was issued to Christopher for his "remarkable display of outstanding courage and valor while maintaining a battle against his illness. He has demonstrated that wars are not only waged by those in uniform. During this difficult period, he demonstrated great strength, courage, and a love for life in heroic proportions. Christopher's distinctive accomplishments reflected great credit upon himself, his family, and his community."
The award was presented to him at Vermont Children's Hospital in a special ceremony that included members of the VTANG giving him a formal salute. The event was touching, said Amy.
"It brought tears to my eyes," she said. "And not only were the members of the Vermont Air National Guard there, but his cardiologist, his pulmonologist, and all the nurses and staff we see at the Children's Speciality Center in Fletcher Allen were there and they got cake for him. They made him feel special."
As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Amy said she was proud both of her son and of the VTANG for offering such encouragement for children through the Young Hero Award.
"I'm very proud that the Vermont Air National Guard has this award for deserving people," said Amy. "As Christopher's mother, I'm just beaming. I know how hard he had to fight to survive this summer, and he completely deserves this award."
Christopher has been doing "remarkably well" in recent weeks, said Amy. He returned to school in September, attending only half-days and undergoing physical therapy three times a week. He finished physical therapy in October and started back to school full days in mid-October. Surgery he underwent during the summer ultimately stopped him from coughing up blood, though Amy noted doctors could not guarantee that wouldn't happen again.
However, Amy and the rest of Christopher's family holds onto hope.
"We can just take things a day at a time and enjoy them," she said.