UNION — When Gretchen Schodde founded the Harmony Hill Cancer Retreat Center in Union in 1986, little did she know the far-reaching impact the center would have on cancer patients and their caregivers over the next 30 years.

The center’s retreats, offered at no cost to cancer patients and their caregivers, focus on overall health and well-being, a response to cancer diagnosis that has become a national model.

Schodde’s pioneering efforts in the world of health care garnered her one of the state’s highest honors Wednesday: the Medal of Merit, an award bestowed for exhibiting “exceptionally meritorious conduct in performing outstanding services to the people and state of Washington.”