2017 Minnesota Red Cross Heroes Awards Winners

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.

Mohamed Ahmed

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.

Julia Weegman

First Responder Hero
Julia Weegman, Stillwater
Sponsored by Abbott

Many people are needed to help save the life of a cardiac arrest patient, but few are attributed with being the guide needed for a man trying to save his wife’s life.

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.

Gordy Kircher

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.

Mikael Tekeste

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

Military Hero
David Winkler, Newport
Sponsored by UnitedHealth Group

Vietnam veteran David (Dave) Winkler lives a life committed to honoring people who have served in the United States armed forces.

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

John Marcella
Beau Foix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year, in the dark of an early morning, John Marcella, Beau Foix, and Cody Hermann headed for duck hunting at West Two Rivers reservoir.

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

Six inspiring stories about people helping people

On May 6, the American Red Cross in Minnesota presented six awards that honored ten people for their heroic efforts helping others during great times of need. Below we share with you their inspiring stories.  

Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Six of ten heroes honored at the 2016 American Red Cross Minnesota Region’s Heroes Breakfast. They include (clockwise) Shawn Hansen, Bryden Bronikowski, Mike Clark, Jerry Nelson, Jenny Braith and Russ Braith. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Duluth teen Bryden Bronikowski was honored with the Youth Good Samaritan Hero Award for helping to save the life of his young cousin. “Panic is your worst enemy,” says Bryden. “Fearing anything can go wrong.” Watch Bryden’s story.

Nisswa Chamber of Commerce president Shawn Hansen received the Community Hero Award for being a vital part of daily coordination and communications during the windstorm disaster relief efforts in Nisswa in July 2015. “As human beings we have to focus on making the world better,” says Shawn. Watch Shawn’s story.

Mike Clark of Eagan received the Military Hero Award for supporting the needs of people in the armed forces. “It gives me an opportunity to connect with people that are just really down to earth,” says Mike. “And they’re really thankful for knowing there’s somebody out there who cares about them.” Watch Mike’s story.

Shoreview resident Jerry Nelson was honored with the Give Life Hero Award for his continuous blood donations and support of organ transplant families. “I’m not a hero for giving blood,” says Jerry. “Transplant patients and the people who get the blood are the heroes.” Watch Jerry’s story.

Willmar_GroupPicture
Three Willmar police officers received Red Cross Heroes awards on May 6, 2016.

Willmar police officers Mike Jahnke, Joshua Helgeson, and Jeff Liebl were honored with the First Responder Hero Award for putting their lives on the line to resolve a potentially tragic situation. “He’s a human being,” says Josh. “It’s our job to help him, and that’s what we did.” Watch Mike, Josh, and Jeff’s story.

Greg Pint received a Red Cross Hero Award. Photo provided courtesy of Greg Pint.
On May 6, 2016, Greg Pint received a Red Cross Hero Award.

Montgomery residents Russ and Jenny Braith, and Lonsdale resident Greg Pint, were honored with the Good Samaritan Hero Award for putting their own lives at risk to save a man from a car going underwater. “I heard him hitting the buttons, the door locking, but no windows coming down,” says Russ. Watch Russ, Jenny and Greg’s story.

Click here to nominate someone for the 2017 Heroes Awards. Post by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross.

You’re Invited To Meet Our Heroes

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Ten Amazing People

A few days ago, our region of the American Red Cross announced its 2016 Heroes Awards recipients. These ten people—whose extraordinary actions exemplify the Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies—saved lives, connected communities, and supported children when they needed it most:

Community Hero Shawn Hansen, Nisswa
First Responder Heroes Sgt. Mike Jahnke & Officer Joshua Helgeson & Officer Jeff Liebl, Willmar
Give Life Hero Jerry Nelson, Shoreview
Good Samaritan Heroes Russ and Jenny Braith, Montgomery, and Greg Pint, Lonsdale
Military Hero Mike Clark, Eagan
Youth Good Samaritan Hero Bryden Bronikowski, Duluth

Powerful Stories That Inspire

You are invited to attend the 8th Annual Heroes Breakfast, which will take place on Friday, May 6, at the Radisson Blu Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. Tickets and table sponsorships are available online at redcross.org/mnheroes or by calling (612) 872-3241. During the breakfast you will hear powerful and inspiring stories about ten people helping others when they needed it most. The breakfast also is an opportunity to celebrate the Red Cross and its important humanitarian work.

Sponsors Make It Happen

Thank you to our 2016 Heroes Breakfast sponsors. This year’s sponsors include presenting sponsor Land O’Lakes, matching gift sponsor US Bank, award sponsors CenterPoint Energy, CHS, Medica, St. Jude Foundation, Anime Twin Cities, UnitedHealth, reception sponsor Navigate Forward, and vignette sponsor Patterson Companies. And thanks to the Minnesota Twins for donating game tickets to our heroes.

We look forward to seeing you on May 6!

Know a hero?

Two of our 2012 Heroes, Zachary Pierson (l) and Elizabeth Estepp, on the Target Field Jumbotron during a game day recognition event last spring. Photo credit: Gene Sung/American Red Cross.
Two of our 2012 Heroes, Zachary Pierson (l) and Elizabeth Estepp, on the Target Field Jumbotron during a game day recognition event last spring. Photo credit: Gene Sung/American Red Cross.

We’re now accepting nominations for our Northern Minnesota Red Cross region’s 2013 Heroes Awards. Last year’s award recipients were outstanding people. They shared their amazing stories of saving lives, caring for their community and human kindness during our annual Heroes Breakfast held last year at Target Field in Minneapolis.  In addition to the breakfast, the Heroes were invited onto the baseball field for special recognition from the Twins and their fans. This year’s breakfast–our 5th annual–will also be at Target Field. And again, we expect to hear life-changing and inspiring tales that will likely make us cry (we bring extra tissue just in case). Without a doubt there are people among you who helped others, saved lives and elevated what it means to be human. We ask that you help us find them by nominating them for the 2013 Heroes Awards.  Click here to learn more and to nominate your hero today.