The Mary Desha Medal for Youth honors a youth (20 years of age and under) for exemplary service to the community, state or nation, through participation and/or leadership in such activities as conservation, organized sports (beyond school sponsored activities), scouting, church or community, or state or national service organizations. At the Texas Daughters of the American Revolution State Conference, James Finley, nominated by the James Hardage Lane 1 Chapter, was awarded the Founders Medal for Youth.
James, along with his family, worked 14 straight hours using canoes and kayaks, rescuing 60 people and 30 animals from the floodwaters generated by Hurricane Harvey. James showed exemplary courage and strength of character in the rescue of a young couple, the Ongs, trapped in their home by the floodwaters. The husband, who required oxygen, had been forced to take refuge in the attic. After waiting hours for assistance, he had less than 90 minutes of oxygen left; his wife risked her own life in the floodwaters outside their home desperately seeking help.
Mrs. Ong explained, “James is unlike any young person of his age I know. He is caring and selfless and courageous in his dedication to helping others. His sense of community far surpasses his age. He does not wait for an organization to tell him where and what is needed. He springs into action on his own, does what needs doing and follows through. He literally risked his life in very fast flowing floodwaters to rescue countless people.”
And he did not stop with just the rescue of Mr. and Mrs. Ong. Before he left for college, he arranged for students from his alma mater to help the Ong family start the remediation process in their home. As if it was not enough that he saved their lives, he wanted them to have a home to return to, ensuring they had hope to cling to at such an unsure time. James is truly an amazing young man and a hero to many.