The 2014 Virtue First Awards will once again be coming to Mount Angel for the fourth year of honoring businesses, teachers, coaches and others who commit to serving youth and promoting virtue.

The annual ceremony, which is free and open to the public Thursday at the Mount Angel Festhalle, is much like the previous three events, but with the distinction of welcoming a new keynote speaker in Justin Fatica.

Virtue First founder Randy Traeger met Fatica last year and the two gathered around their shared commitment to promoting integrity and positive energy to kids and adolescents.

“We’ve just kind of hit it off because of his passion,” Traeger said. “Some people have said he’s one of the next great motivational speakers, and the reason for that is his passion.”

Fatica is originally from New Jersey and works to spread his faith-based message through motivational speaking throughout the east and Midwest. When the two men met, Traeger introduced Fatica to Virtue First Foundation, which spreads a similar message to Fatica’s Catholic organization: Hard as Nails Ministry.

Fatica gravitated toward Virtue First’s message because its message was not based in any particular religion, allowing him and his program to reach out to youth in public schools.

“Their path that they’ve been called to follow has been steering them more toward the public side, but they didn’t have the curriculum to do that,” Traeger said. “So they’ve become an advocate for the Virtue First curriculum and they use that in public schools.

“It was kind of a perfect marriage because most of the schools and organizations that we deal with out here — like 99 percent are public schools, so our message is geared on a virtue-based secular message,” said Traeger. “It’s opened up a whole new world to them. In any particular town, if you try to avoid public schools, it doesn’t make any sense.”

Fatica joins Traeger in hosting the Virtue First Awards that honor 30 nominees in five categories for teachers, coaches, youth ministers, businesses and health care providers. The program opens at 6:30 p.m. with music from local country singer Tiffany Kuenzi.

The program is open to everyone, Traeger said, regardless of their familiarity with Virtue First. “Virtue is community based, and it’s humanity based. Everybody has a feel for it, but not everybody pays much attention to it.

“Sure there are lots of awards out there, but is there one that focuses in on rewarding people for their virtuous paths that help kids? I don’t think so.”


What: Fourth annual Virtue First Awards

When: 6:30-8:30 p.m., May 8

Where: Mount Angel Festhalle, 500 Wilco Highway, Mount Angel

Why: To award and inspire those who serve youth

Who: Open to the general public.

Cost: Admission is free.

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