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Martelle Luedecke is 2019 Favorite Volunteer

Though The Picayune readers and KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune listeners chose Martelle Luedecke as one of the Local Love Us favorite volunteers, she’s the first to say it’s truly a family affair. And a quick look at this photo collage shows that's true. During a previous Candlelight Ranch Family Day, daughter Samm (top left), son J.P. (top right), daughter Brieze (bottom left), and Luedecke (bottom right) all volunteered to help. Courtesy photos

As she talked about volunteering, Martelle Luedecke pointed out to one specific day that really highlights why she spends hundreds of hours each year giving of herself.

She was helping with the zip line at Candlelight Ranch, an outdoors facility near Marble Falls. Campers or day users hook up to the zip line with a harness then sail across the gap above the canyon below. It’s an exhilarating experience.

For one youth, who is a quadriplegic, zip lining seemed well beyond his abilities. But, Luedecke, pointed out, this was Candlelight Ranch, a place set up for kids with special needs — physical or emotional — and at-risk youth. Saying “can’t” isn’t really part of Candlelight’s and Luedecke’s vocabulary.

“They have the special harness built for kids like him,” Luedecke said. “We got him in it and hooked up.”

Then, with everything ready, they let him go.

“And he zip-lined across the canyon,” she said. “His mom, well, she was in tears, but the smile on his face, well, that was amazing.

“He can’t walk, but he can fly,” Luedecke added. “That’s why I volunteer so much: the smiles.”

It’s also why The Picayune readers and KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune listeners picked Luedecke as their favorite Burnet-area volunteer in the annual Locals Love Us awards. If you ask Luedecke, though, she’ll tell you volunteering is a family affair.

And for the Luedeckes, it really is. As she talked about volunteering, her daughter Brieze nodded. A family trip for the Luedeckes usually involves volunteering at Candlelight Ranch and the Upper Highland Lakes Nature Center, with the Highland Lakes Master Naturalists, or for something related to photography.

“We’re always volunteering, and it’s her fault,” Brieze said with a smile while pointing at her mother.

The rest of the Luedecke clan is Martelle’s other kids, Samm and JP. As past president of the Highland Lakes Master Naturalists, Martelle easily logged more than 400 volunteer hours for the chapter.

Luedecke — with a camera or two in hand — is also a regular at Burnet High School sporting events and Burnet-area activities. She routinely makes out-of-town trips to take photos of the students as they compete.

“When students ask me if I can shoot their game or event, I do because I can,” Luedecke said. “I enjoy being able to let them have a photo that depicts, in a moment, the hard work that they have put in.”

It all comes back to helping people — like the young man who flew across the canyon at Candlelight Ranch.

“I guess you could say I love smiles,” Luedecke said. “The tools I have are photography and nature, so that’s what I use.”

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