NAUGATUCK — Zachary Hodoba, a freshman at Naugatuck High School, recently won the Good Samaritan Award presented by the Waterbury Youth Service System, a non-profit organization. Hodoba received the award in recognition of his volunteer work after he overcame great personal challenges.
Life hasn’t been easy on Hoboda. He and his mother suffered the loss of his brother only a few years ago. He copes by playing the trumpet.
He has played for four years, both in the middle school and high school band, as well as at local churches and convalescent homes, where he volunteers to play Christmas carols during the holiday season. He has shared his gift at Beacon Brook Health Center, Glendale Center, Hillside Convalescent Church, Salem Lutheran Church, Manors Residence Home, and Compassionate Friends Bereavement Center.
Hodoba was nominated by his Spanish teacher, Stacy Stableford. In her statement, she wrote, “Instead of falling apart or allowing his schoolwork to slide, instead of looking for pity, he has turned his hurt into helpfulness and great kindness toward others. … He has a smile for everyone, is always understanding of his classmates’ idiosyncrasies and gently reminds others to do the same.”
In a letter to the editor published by Citizen’s News earlier this year, Hodoba wrote of the seniors he played for, “I enjoy seeing their faces when I play my Christmas songs, so happy and cheerful and looking back at the wonderful memories they had, and even some of them sing along.”
Zach’s biggest fan and supporter is his mother, Anna. Stableford referred to Zach as “solid comfort to his mother, helping her in her work whenever he can,” who is “mindful and sympathetic to the sadness that the family’s loss brought her.”
The pride Anna takes in her son shines through whenever she speaks about him. “Zach loves to make other people happy. Even through [difficult times], he always appreciates what he has,” she said.
Zach has helped her cope with the loss as well. She says that it is important “to go on, but never forget,” and Zach’s determination and talent helps her do so. “Instead of being sad and depressed over our situation, he volunteers. He always appreciates what he has, and he’s helped so many other kids,” she said.
According to its website, Waterbury Youth Services dedicates itself to bettering the future for children. “Excellence in Youth Character” awards are presented to students each year in the following categories: Citizenship, Community Service, the Good Samaritan, Initiative, and Leadership. Students eligible for nomination must be in grades 6-12 and reside in any of several towns, including Beacon Falls, Naugatuck, and Prospect.