Every year, our Minnesota Red Cross region recognizes courageous people who have performed acts of bravery and service helping people in local communities. We’re now accepting nominations for our 2020 Heroes Awards. Selected honorees will be recognized during our annual Heroes Breakfast, which will be held on May 29, 2020, at the Radisson Blu – Mall of America.
Heroes will be honored in six categories:
Community Hero: Presented to an individual who displays leadership and commitment to his or her community by making a positive and significant impact.
Give Life Hero: Presented to an individual whose commitment to blood and platelet donation plays a significant role in ensuring the health of patients in our local communities and throughout the country.
Good Samaritan Hero: Presented to an individual who displays courage and compassion upon encountering an unusual, significant or unexpected incident.
First Responder Hero: Presented to an individual or group of the public service community, such as EMS, firefighter or law enforcement) who went above and beyond the call of duty.
Military Hero: Presented to an active, reserve or retired member of the U.S. Armed Forces of ROTC or civilian that has made a significant impact on the military community.
Youth Good Samaritan Hero (under 21): Presented to an outstanding young person who displays courage and compassion upon encountering an unusual, significant or unexpected incident .
Congratulations to our 2019 Heroes Awards recipients. They’ve made the world a better place and we’re thankful for that. Check out their stories.
Good Samaritan Hero
Melissa Goble and Kimberly Hartung did not know each another when they encountered a man in cardiac arrest along the path of 10K race in Nisswa in April 2018, but they both stepped up and put their training as nurses into action. Click here to watch Melissa’s and Kimberly’s story. Our 2019 Good Samaritan Hero Award is presented by CenterPoint Energy.
First Responder Hero
Paul VanVoorhis and Steve Kritzeck found an injured man in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and traveled about a mile with him to get to safety. They provided him with crucial lifesaving first aid until emergency help arrived. To watch Paul’s and Steve’s story click here. Our 2019 First Responder Hero Award is presented by Abbott.
Give Life Hero
Kirk Albright has donated platelets every other week for nearly thirty years. He doesn’t do it for recognition or for awards, but simply because he knows there is a great need. To watch Kirk’s story click here. Our 2019 Give Life Hero Award is presented by Deluxe Corporation.
Cassandra Holmes is a vital part of the Little Earth United Tribes and East Philips neighborhoods in Minneapolis, serving in many roles that illustrate her commitment to the Native-American communities. Click here to watch Cassandra’s story. Our 2019 Community Hero Award is presented by Eide Bailly LLP.
Thirteen-year-old Ella and fourteen-year-old Collin Hintze-Belland were watching their six-year-old sister at their home in Stillwater in August 2018 when a fast-moving fire swept through their house. Watch Ella’s and Collin’s story here. Our 2019 Youth Hero Award is presented by Medica Foundation.
Dan Couture, 20-year veteran of the Minnesota Army National Guard. Couture puts his military experience to work everyday fighting tirelessly to reduce veteran homelessness in St. Louis County, Minnesota. Click here to watch Dan’s story. Our 2019 Military Hero Award is presented by APi Group, Inc.
The 2019 Heroes Awards were given at our 2019 Heroes Breakfast, which was presented by Land O’Lakes, Inc., and held at Radisson Blu, Mall of America, on May 3. Many thanks to Slumberland Furniture for sponsoring and producing this year’s Heroes videos. Click here for the complete playlist. Thank you to Marathon for supporting our Heroes VIP Reception. All photos are by Lara Leimbach for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region.
Heroes inspire us. They help others. They show us how courage, strength, and bravery can save the day. Each year, the Minnesota Red Cross honors local people who went above and beyond to help others — either by saving a life or enriching and transforming lives over years of service. Our heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Through January 4, we’re accepting nominations for the 2019 Heroes Awards. To learn more and to be inspired, check out our 2018 Heroes stories below.
2018 Community Hero | Scott Bissen, Orono
Sponsored by Minnesota Tiffany Circle
As the Co-Founder and Board member of the Pay It Forward Fund (PIFF), Scott Bissen was awarded Community Hero for his 13 years of committed service to aid with the demanding financial pressures many cancer patients face during their treatment period. Since inception, PIFF – a Minnesota non-profit fund of Ridgeview Foundation—has paid in total over $2.2M in household bills to support nearly 2,000 Minnesota patients who are undergoing cancer treatment.
Scott and his wife understand the pressure that families go through in such a difficult time. Through the PIFF, they can take some of the weight off for those families who struggle paying bills due to illness. For many families, even with insurance, it’s hard to maintain financial stability due to the medical bills and loss of work hours some people face through cancer treatment.
“Scott has been a devoted and passionate Pay It Forward Fund (PIFF) Board Member, thought leader, and fundraising volunteer throughout the fund’s 13-year history,” nominator Leslie Glaze mentions. His devotion to PIFF is also exemplified by the numerous successful fundraising events he’s organized. See his full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_Community
2018 Military Hero | Matthew Aeschliman, Baxter| Joshua Guyse, Royalton
Sponsored by Slumberland
When Joshua Guyse received a call from the distressed soldier, he immediately contacted his supervisor, Matthew Aeschliman, and the two traveled together from the St. Cloud, MN area to meet with the Soldier in the Twin Cities. Upon arrival, they implemented their training on Suicide Prevention—actively listened and calmly controlled the situation. Through their effort and care, Josh and Matt gained the Soldier’s agreement to be escorted to the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC).
“Suicide Prevention training is mandatory for Soldiers at all levels and across all organizations. Nevertheless, military units continue to experience suicide within their ranks. I am certain that on January 3, 2018, my unit narrowly avoided such a suicide event. It was no accident that my Soldier contacted Josh Guyse as a final effort to ask for help.” Unit Commander John Zillhardt states. “[Josh and Matts] actions directly saved a life and highlighted the training they receive in the military.” See their full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_Military
2018 Give Life Hero | Beverly Bartz, Sleepy Eye
Sponsored by Health Partners
Beverly Bartz has been a Red Cross volunteer for 65 years. She was awarded as the Give Life Hero for the incredible impact she’s made at the Sleepy Eye, MN blood drives. She’s helped give the gift of life to others by coordinating blood drives since 1964, collecting 88,000 units of blood and impacting potentially more than 24,000 lives.
For many years, she’s mobilized her community to help and promote the importance of donating blood. She herself was an avid blood donor and along with her late husband, instilled that same commitment in their children. “It is an important part of the community and part of our lives,” Bev states. See her full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_GiveLife
Vernon Taplet was moving his car in the garage when it hit something that caused a gas spill and the fire took over. Brady and Zack Houle noticed a dark cloud of smoke and ran out to help Vernon who was on the ground crying out for help. Thanks to their courage they were able to move their neighbor to safety.
Brady is currently studying law enforcement at Century Lake College. He said, “I always wanted to help people and had the opportunity to do it…At the time I didn’t realize I was falling back on my training.” He and Zack were able to convince Vern to be moved to safety despite the pain he was in from the fall. “It was an adrenaline thing. I put my shirt over my nose as I went running. We just wanted to get [Vernon] out of there. There was stuff with gas on it, things that could have blown up,” Zack explained.
They’re selflessness and bravery prevented a tragedy that day. “They pretty much saved my life and put their lives in danger to save me,” Vern stated. See their full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_YouthGoodSam
2018 Good Samaritan Hero | Van Dickerson, Minneapolis
Sponsored by CenterPoint Energy
Friends Tim Walsh and Van Dickerson were enjoying the day with a friendly tennis match when suddenly Tim began feeling ill. In a dark turn of events, Tim fell motionless onto the floor, his heart had stopped due to cardiac arrest. Van’s immediate response is one of the reasons why Tim is here today.
Van is trained on CPR for his work at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, who utilizes the Red Cross CPR class. He never imagined that those skills would save his friends life one day. Van effectively handled a critical situation and took every necessary step: dialing 911, checking his vitals and performing CPR.
Tim later learned that the survival rate for someone who has a cardiac arrest under such conditions is less than 5%. “Van is my hero and I believe he should win the Good Samaritan Hero award because he is ultimate example of the everyday heroes that are equipped by Red Cross training to save lives,” Tim mentions. See the full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_GoodSam
2018 First Responder Hero | Virginia Marsh, Crystal | Lt. Paul Stricker, Inver Grove Heights
Sponsored by Abbott
Virginia Marsh and Lt. Paul Stricker stopped on the side of Highway 394 to save the life of 6-week old Elise. Kristin Lonsbury was driving her premature daughter Elise to the doctor when Elise began choking on her vomit. She quickly stopped on the side of the road and tried to figure out what was wrong. That’s when nurse Virginia Marsh came over and began conducting CPR. Lieutenant Paul Stricker also happened to be driving by when he saw the women. He quickly got out of his car and assisted with CPR and communicating with 911 dispatch.
Out of all the people that where driving by that day on Highway 395, these two heroes didn’t think twice about stopping and rushed to help a mother and child. “Virginia ran a fair distance to get to us, arrived on scene with such grace, compassion, and confidence, and then was able to save my child’s life because she just knew what to do,” Kristin says. “Paul’s presence on-scene was one of the main reasons why my daughter is alive today. He was calmly assertive and knew exactly what needed to happen in what order.
With Elise’s every milestone, Kristin is reminded of these two heroes who stopped on the side of the road and selflessly helped her and her daughter out. They provided comfort and checked up on her after the incident. See their full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_1stRespond
This year the Minnesota Region of the American Red Cross honors seven people whose humanity, generosity, and courage show us the best of what we believe a hero to be. Chosen for acts of bravery, kindness, and service ranging from supporting military veterans to donating gallons of blood, these people inspire us to be the best humanity can be every day and during times of crisis. Click on the links below to see their video stories. Or, click here for the video play list.
Community Hero Mohamed Ahmed, Burnsville
Sponsored by Anime Twin Cities
The road from a refugee camp in Kenya to community hero in Minnesota is a long one. But Mohamed (Mo) Ahmed has traveled that road, bringing with him the spirit and action of helping others. Today, as a youth soccer team coach for more than 10 years, Mohamed continues to give time, money, and guidance to disadvantaged and diverse youth, including Somali, Oromo, Hmong, and Latino players. His time devotion alone adds up to more than 300 hours of volunteer service every year.
“Mohamed has set-up a wonderful mentoring network with himself and former coaches, contributing physically, financially, and emotionally to the youth on these teams,” says Michelle Swanson, who nominated Mohamed for the Community Hero Award. “It’s hard to explain everything that this network does,” says Swanson.
The teams play in multiple tournaments in the United States and Canada. One team has won several regional and national tournaments under Mohamed’s leadership. But for Mohamed, coaching is about more than building winning teams. For him, coaching provides an opportunity to give struggling youth, especially those new to this country, guidance that he needed as a new boy in America. Kids who might otherwise be unable to afford club soccer can participate at minimal cost, giving them soccer and life skills helpful for doing well in this country.
Five years in a refugee camp was a long time, and a long-time ago, for Mohamed, whose transition and triumph makes him most deserving of being our 2017 Community Hero.
First Responder Hero Julia Weegman, Stillwater Sponsored by Abbott
Very early on the morning of June 15, 2016, Julia Weegman was that person for Chris Jesmer when he called 9-1-1 for emergency assistance after finding his wife, Jeanine, unresponsive. “As a panicked husband who knew his wife was dying before his eyes, and as someone who had no experience with CPR, I felt totally helpless,” says Chris.
Julia immediately provided Chris and his daughter with instruction for helping Jeanine. Julia guided them through moving Jeanine to the floor, clearing her throat, and beginning chest compressions until professional assistance arrived.
Today, Jeanine has fully recovered from her cardiac emergency. Many people, including EMTs, emergency room doctors, intensive care nurses, and others, are responsible for saving Jeanine’s life, says Chris, but “I firmly believe that all of these professionals would not have been able to assist Jeanine were it not for Julia first guiding me through the lifesaving CPR.”
Julia is a true first responder hero, whose compassion and training saved the life of a wife and mother when help was most needed.
Give Life Hero Gordy Kircher, St. Paul
Sponsored by Smiths Medical
Among those helping to save lives every day is Gordy Kircher. A Red Cross volunteer with more than 200 hours of service for last year alone, Gordy gives selflessly to help those who need lifesaving blood and platelets.
Gordy has for decades donated blood and platelets. While being treated for cancer and unable to donate, Gordy became a Donor Ambassador assisting other donors with reception and hospitality at the St. Paul donor center.
“Gordy is a strong volunteer who is always willing to do what he can to help,” says Allison Belting, who nominated Gordy for the Give Life Hero Award. “Whether he’s working at a blood drive, training new volunteers, or assisting with recruitment efforts in his community, Gordy is an exceptional volunteer.”
Gordy’s efforts support the American Red Cross North Central Blood Services Region, which last year collected more than 248,000 blood units for hospitals and patients. Heroes like Gordy are critical to this lifesaving work.
Good Samaritan Hero Mikael Tekeste, St. Paul
Sponsored by CenterPoint Energy
Human suffering comes in many forms, including the kind that drives someone to attempt suicide. On August 9, 2016, Mikael (Mike) Tekeste was walking across the Wabasha Bridge in St. Paul on his way to work when he came across a woman in that place of deepest despair.
Without regard for his personal safety, Mikael grabbed the woman by her arms and pleaded with her not to jump from the bridge. She pleaded with him in reverse, asking him to let her die. He did not, and he stayed with her until first responders arrived. With assistance from several Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputies, Mikael pulled the woman over the railing to safety.
“We feel that a true testament of a person’s character is how they respond when they see another person in need,” says Brenna Atz with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. “Mr. Tekeste demonstrated his true character on this day.”
Mike’s action was a courageous and selfless demonstration of the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.
David Winkler, Newport
Sponsored by UnitedHealth Group
On behalf of veterans, Dave attends rallies, speaks at high schools, serves as a member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society, and volunteers for the annual Patriot Ride benefit. As an active motorcyclist, Dave joined the Minnesota Patriot Guard Riders in 2006. Since then, he has been on numerous missions, honoring fallen heroes at memorial services.
Dave’s volunteer service ranges from boots-on-ground work, such as shuttling people to and from parking lots, to leadership support as a charity board member.
For Dave, his work is simply “the right thing to do.” This includes helping a fellow Vietnam veteran who’s unable to walk more than a few feet. Dave takes “Doc” to VA visits, patriot missions and funerals. “Most importantly, Dave makes regular visits to a friend preparing to die,” says Ray Guest, who nominated Dave for the Military Hero Award.
In addition to honoring American military veterans, Dave has donated blood since 1970.
Because of Dave’s work, many military veterans and their families feel less alone in the world, making Dave a true representation of honorable service helping others in need.
Youth Good Samaritan Heroes John Marcella and Beau Foix, Virginia Sponsored by Medica Foundation
While preparing gear in their boat, John heard a splash, looked around in darkness, and saw nothing. John thought the splash was odd. He could have ignored it, but thankfully he did not. Grabbing his headlamp, he looked more along the shore and on the dock, and noticed Cody was nowhere. Peering into the water, he spotted Cody face down and not moving.
John yelled to Beau. They put a rope into Cody’s hand, but he did not respond. Cody, they later learned, had suffered a seizure.
In the darkness, Cody jumped in the water while still wearing his waders. He plunged to the bottom and pushed from the ground, gaining momentum to get Cody’s face out of the water and his body closer to shore where John helped pull their friend from the lake. John’s phone, which earlier had no signal, finally had one strong enough for him to call 9-1-1- for emergency assistance while Beau started CPR on Cody.
“That morning, two ordinary people did something extraordinary,” says Lisa Perkovich, Virginia High School principal and award nominator. “John and Beau did more than save a friend that day. They saved a son. They saved a nephew. They saved a grandson. They saved a teammate. They saved a school and most of all they saved a community from irreversible devastation.”
The Red Cross joins the Virginia community in celebrating and recognizing two remarkable youth who were courageous and selfless in their humanitarian actions.
The 2017 Heroes were recognized on May 19 during the Heroes Awards and Centennial Celebration, which was held at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Thanks to an outstanding effort on the part of dedicated Red Cross supporters, including 921 guests and 65 volunteers, the Heroes Awards and Centennial Celebration raised more than $479,000 for American Red Cross programs and services. Many thanks to our guests and volunteers, sponsors and partners, centennial co-chairs, special guests and speakers, gala co-chairs, entertainment, and staff, who helped make the night a great night! Click here to learn more about our history, centennial year activities, and to share your story.
Post by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross Minnesota Region Heroes videos and photos by Patterson Companies
Considering there was a slight chance of rain throughout the duration of the race, the attendance of nearly 300 people was a great turnout this year. The 2016 Run for Blood proved to be everything but ordinary. Food carts, music, dance groups, and various stands were all a part of the event, but there was something even more important to the race.
While the Run for Blood 5K might be about getting to the end of the line with family, friends, or solo, little do people know of the impact this run and walk event has on the surrounding community. Right now, someone in the United States needs blood or platelets every two seconds. With the donation van onsite, many runners were able to give lifesaving blood and race proceeds to over 108 hospitals in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Iowa. This race was and continues to be a great way for families, friends and coworkers to rally together and raise awareness for the need for blood.
At 8:30 a.m., the runners and walkers began lining up at the start line, getting ready to show their physical stamina, strength, or a mix of both. In addition to the number of solo runners, the race would not have been as exciting without the various teams. Such teams included “Faster than Disaster” to “Walking Disasters.” While some groups may have been an understatement of their actual pace, everyone found one way or another to enjoy the 3.10 miles of the race around Lake Calhoun. It was encouraging to see people of all ages and size willing to come together and strive towards the Run for Blood ultimate mission: raising awareness for the never-ending need of blood.
A number of thank you letters go out to a number of people. First and foremost, this race would not have been as athletic or competitive without the runners who gave some of their money to donate for a better cause and run or walk the five kilometers. Second, the sponsors, including presenting sponsor Smiths Medical, and hydration station sponsor Culligan, and tech T-shirt sponsor Western National Insurance, that helped fund the raise, continue to make these events happen. And, great thanks to the event volunteers! No matter the level of importance, the American Red Cross 2016 Run for Blood could not have happened without you and we are incredibly grateful for your work.
While some of you were unable to attend this event, there are always different ways in how you can aid this blood shortage going on. There are four American Red Cross donation centers within the Twin Cities and all you need to do is schedule an appointment. Maybe the next time you hear the phrase, “Ready, Set, Go” you’ll think of a different phrase: Ready, Set, Donate by signing up for the 2017 Run for Blood 5K next summer!
One year ago Danielle Anselment started to hemorrhage while giving birth to her fifth child. It was remarkable, doctors said, that she pulled through. Donated blood on the shelves made the difference. To save her life, doctors gave Danielle 40 pints of blood and platelets. Without it she might not be here to take care for her family. Her husband Shaun would likely be a single parent with five young children. She’s living proof, she says, that blood makes a world of difference.
Danielle, who’s a sergeant with the Eagan Police Department, has joined forces with the American Red Cross and the 2016 Run for Blood, an annual event that raises awareness for the constant need for blood. This 5K run and walk, and community blood drive will be held on July 23 at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. The Run for Blood is fun summer event that supports American Red Cross North Central Blood Services, which provides lifesaving blood products to 108 hospitals in Minnesota, western Wisconsin, eastern South Dakota and northwest Iowa.
Whether you are a blood recipient or blood donor, or you know someone who has needed blood, you can find a fit for participating in this fun summer event. You can form a team, join a team, donate blood, or cheer on runner and walkers. The Run for Blood is family-friendly, and new this year is a Pint-Size Corner featuring kid dashes, games, and face painting.
Register online at redcross.org/mn. Blood donors can also sign-up to give blood using sponsor code “Run for Blood” in the free Red Cross Blood App. Same day registrations for the run/walk and to donate blood are also welcome. Each participant will receive a free tech T-shirt and swag bag with items and coupons from local businesses.
Thank you to Run for Blood presenting sponsor Smiths Medical. Special thanks to our water sponsor Culligan and T-shirt sponsor Western National Insurance. And many thanks to the volunteers who help make this event a fun and safe event to everyone!