Ben, Nicky, Megan and Mallory Sudduth stand with Molly, Emily, Julie and Brad Rascoe after the Citizen of the Year Award ceremony at the Westport Heritage center.
Westport Chamber of Commerce officials honored Ben Sudduth as their 2011 Citizen of the Year in a ceremony on Nov. 10 at the Westport Heritage Center.
“We always ask what our favorite part about Westport is, and the answer is always the same, the people, and tonight’s man of the year, Ben Sudduth, has exemplified outstanding qualities and acts of generosity,” Westport Chamber of Commerce Board member Molly Kasriels said.
Sudduth was honored by the New York state Senate for his countless accomplishments and outstanding contributions he has made to the state and the nation in January 2011. Now the community of Westport has come together to show its appreciation and acknowledge his accomplishments.
“When Ben first came to Westport and joined the fire department I thought to myself, ‘Great, another newbie,’” said Jim Forcier, Westport Chamber of Commerce Board member and CEO of Chazy Westport Communications. “Then the first fire we went to I was ahead of Ben on the hose, and he was right behind me with Scott air packs and the whole nine yards. We go in, and I thought he was going run me over. I was scared to death. He has certainly given a great run for this community.”
Sudduth moved to Westport in 1989 and started work at Camp Dudley. Before moving to Westport, he served as a U.S. Marine from 1984 to 1989 as an expeditionary air field technician and an embassy guard in Germany, a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves, and in 1999 he was transferred to the Vermont Air National Guard, where he remains active with the 158th Fighter Wing.
In March 2002, he was deployed to Afghanistan and served during Operation Enduring Freedom until January of 2003. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and the Vermont Air National Guard Hometown Salute upon his return.
Sudduth is a member of the Westport Volunteer Fire Department, where he serves as the training officer, a captain and EMT of the Westport Emergency Squad.
In 2010, Sudduth gave Westport teen Molly Rascoe his left kidney after she was diagnosed with a rare disease, for which he asked for no recognition, only that Molly live a long and happy life.
Sudduth recounted the experience, questioning whether his action benefitted Molly or himself more. He said anyone could have given the kidney for Molly, but he felt she helped him more by allowing him to be a part of her healing process.
The day Molly was taken to the hospital, Sudduth said he felt helpless and wanted to help.
“The best people in the world were taking Molly away to the hospital, and I’m left there crying and wondering why can’t I do anything, and apparently one thing I could do was she needed a kidney,” he said.
It wasn’t two weeks after the transplant, and Sudduth was back to helping the volunteer fire department any way he could without straining his abdomen. He was able to help by filling gas tanks for the emergency workers and driving. Sudduth said anything involving bending or lifting he was unable to do for risk of ripping his stitches or injuring himself.
“Here’s a guy who doesn’t talk it, he does it,” Forcier said. “I can't think of a person who is more deserving of this recognition than Ben Sudduth.”
“Anyone can be a donor,” Sudduth said, encouraging others to become organ donors by contacting the Transplant Coordinator at Fletcher Allen Hospital, 802-847-4774, or visiting www.donatelifevt.org.
“There are many ways to help somebody,” Sudduth said. “It helped me. I may be doing CPR on someone at 3 in the morning and not be able to save them, but I know I saved one person.”