Melaleuca Employee Honored for Decades of Volunteer Service on Search & Rescue Team

Fremont County Search and Rescue Snow Cat

Melaleuca honored Ron Sykes, an 18-year employee who exemplifies our mission of enhancing lives, by presenting him with the 2021 Spirit Award. Presented annually, the Melaleuca Spirit Award highlights one Team Member who has provided exemplary community service and Melaleuca makes a $1,000 donation to a charity of his or her choice.

In the past, these donations have supported nonprofits that focus on foster parents, women in crisis, technology education for high school students, the Special Olympics, and a cancer facility for children.

This year’s Spirit Award donation will support the Fremont County Search and Rescue team, where Ron has provided outstanding volunteer service for 34 years.

Ron started his career at Melaleuca in 2004, and he currently works as a Senior Mechanic overseeing inventory of parts and tools as well as training incoming mechanics. In addition to his service on the Search & Rescue team, Ron has volunteered for 11 years with the Fremont County Fire Department and three years as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff for Fremont County.

“Melaleuca is proud to honor Ron for his dedication to excellence, kindness, and compassion in all he does,” said Melaleuca Vice President of Human Resources Jamie Reynolds.

Search and Rescue

Ron’s volunteer work has been full of variety, such as serving as an overflow First Responder; rescuing stranded snowmobilers, ATV riders, motorcyclists, kayakers, boaters, hunters, etc.; helping with road closures; and providing emergency medical services.

Ron Sykes at work looking for a drowning victim

Ron Sykes at work looking for a drowning victim on the Teton River near the Teton Dam.

But the work that means the most is the team’s key responsibility: searching for and providing aid to lost or missing persons.

“The best part of this work is bringing closure to people in fear,” says Ron. “It’s heartbreaking to see the look on a mother’s face when she does not know the outcome. But everything changes when we can happily say, ‘We’ve got him!” This is not easy work, but the relief and appreciation we receive from those we help is what keeps me going.”

A Missing Child and a Heroic Rescue

A memory of that scenario replays for Ron as he reflects on his history with this team. At the time, he had only been volunteering for a few years when a 5-year-old boy was called in as missing from a remote area in southeast Idaho. The boy’s mother explained that one minute he was there, and then he simply was gone.

The team quickly mobilized and began their rescue mission.

“We started grid searching that evening with search dogs on foot and on horseback,” Ron recalls. “Every minute was critical, and nobody went to sleep. As night fell, we even brought in a helicopter with infrared capabilities to help us with the search. Even though my entire team, along with community volunteers, searched everywhere all through the night, we still couldn’t find this lost child.

“The next day, late in the afternoon, a member of the Search & Rescue team on horseback heard a faint whimper to his left in the brush. He immediately stopped, dismounted his horse, and began sifting through the tall grass. To his astonishment, he found this scared little boy, alive, who had been out there for almost two days.”

“That was such a rewarding moment,” Ron said, “and it made a great impression on me. I’ll never forget the moment when we brought this little child back to his mother.”

Ron says that experience and many others have fueled his passion for this work. “And because this program is funded by donations and the occasional grant, I’m especially grateful that Melaleuca sees value in my service to help those who are lost, injured and in need of rescue.”

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