What makes a hero?

all winners
2018 Heroes of 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.  

 

Scott
Lori McDougal, Scott Bissen

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 

 

Left to right: Matthew Aeschliman, Kenny Larson, Joshua Guyse, Lee Strom

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 

 

Beverly Bartz and Barb Tretheway

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 

 

youth good
left to right: JoAnn Birkholz, Zack Houle, Lee Strom

2018 Youth Good Samaritan Hero | Brady Houle | Zack Houle, Merrifield 

Sponsored by Medica Foundation  

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 

 

left to right: Bran Tutunjian, Van Dickerson, Tim Walsh

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 

 

left to right: Kristin Lonsbury, Virginia Walsh (holding baby Elise), Lt. Paul Stricker

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 

To nominate a hero, click here.

Photos: Andy Clayton-King

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!

Gathering to honor everyday heroes

HeroesASPOT_514x260On June 18, hundreds of people will come together in recognition of ordinary people performing extraordinary acts of courage. The event they’ll attend is the American Red Cross Minnesota Region’s 7th Annual Heroes Breakfast. This breakfast honors people who took an extra step, or two or three, when others needed help. This willingness to help others directly connects to the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering. This work is the essence of what the Red Cross and its volunteers do around the globe every day.

During the breakfast we will honor the 2015 Heroes Award recipients, who are:

Youth Good Samaritan Hero A.J. Spaulding of Spring Lake Park a volunteer, who has helped numerous children and teens through their grieving process after losing his own father to suicide;

Good Samaritan Heroes Aaron Briggs of White Bear Lake and Grant Dawson of St. Paul who used CPR to help save the life of a man who collapsed on the ice at Hazelnut Park in Arden Hills;

Give Life Hero Lavonne Kroells of Norwood-Young America, a dedicated blood drive coordinator who over the past 40 years has helped collect more than 160,000 units of lifesaving blood;

First Responder Hero Russ Vandenheuvel of Bertha, who brought ambulance service to his hometown and recruits and trains volunteers to respond to their neighbors in need;

Military Hero Shane Hudella of Hastings, a retired member of the armed forces and founder of Defending the Blue Line, a non-profit that helps ensure children of military members can participate in hockey by providing free equipment, camps and tickets; and

Community Hero Tom Campion of St. Paul, who created “Safe Summer Nights,” which brings together the community and police officers to create lasting bonds of cooperation, improved trust and understanding.

We invite you to join us for this inspiring event, which will be held at the Radisson Blu, Mall of America in Bloomington. Tickets and information about table sponsorship opportunities are available online at redcross.org/mnheroes2015 or by calling (612) 872-3207.

Thank you to our 2015 Heroes Breakfast sponsors including, presenting sponsor Land O’Lakes, US Bancorp, CenterPoint Energy, CHS, Medica, St. Jude Foundation, Anime Twin Cities, UnitedHealth, Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins and GS Productions.

2015 Heroes Call for Nominations

Heroes_GraphicEach year, the American Red Cross Minnesota Region honors individuals and groups for acts of great bravery, dedication and service to the community. The Red Cross is now accepting nominations for the 2015 Heroes Awards. The recipients will receive their awards  at the annual Heroes Breakfast, which will be held June 18, 2015, at the Radisson Blu – Mall of America.

We will honor community heroes 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.

Nominate a hero now.

Watch videos sharing 2014 Heroes stories.

Nominees must be Minnesota residents and the heroic event must have occurred between July 1, 2013 to present. The deadline for nominations is January 31, 2015.

Thank you to all of the sponsors and guests who supported the 2014 Heroes Breakfast. To learn about how you can sponsor the 2015 Heroes Breakfast, please contact Danika Trosen at 612-872-3207.

Heroes Breakfast Highlights

Thank you to everyone who supported our 2014 Heroes Breakfast! More than 450 guests shared a wonderful, inspiring morning while meeting this year’s Heroes and learning more about their extraordinary acts of courage, resiliency and generosity. Below, we share photo highlights of the event. Click here to see the Heroes videos. 

Give Life Hero Kate Ross (l) with Red Cross board member Tom Meyer. Photo credit: Andy King
Give Life Hero Kate Ross (l) with Red Cross board member Tom Meyer. Photo credit: Andy King
Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern. Photo credit: Andy King
National American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern. Photo credit: Andy King
Military Hero Dennis Davis (l) and Red Cross Social Advocate Kevin Schreifels. Photo credit: Andy King
Military Hero Dennis Davis (l) and Red Cross Social Advocate Kevin Schreifels. Photo credit: Andy King
Local Red Cross CEOs Geoff Kaufmann and Phil Hansen. Photo credit: Andy King
Local Red Cross CEOs Geoff Kaufmann and Phil Hansen. Photo credit: Andy King
USBank CEO Richard Davis. Photo credit: Andy King
USBank CEO Richard Davis. Photo credit: Andy King
Around 450 people attended our 2014 Heroes Breakfast in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Andy King
Around 450 people attended our 2014 Heroes Breakfast in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Andy King
The 2014 Heroes (l-r): Zoran Pedisic, Shane Linehan, Kate Ross, Sydney Book, Dennis Davis and Pat Harris. Photo credit: Andy King
The 2014 Heroes (l-r): Zoran Pedisic, Shane Linehan, Kate Ross, Sydney Book, Dennis Davis and Pat Harris. Photo credit: Andy King
Local Red Cross board co-chair Lori McDougal. Photo credit: Andy King
Local Red Cross board vice-chair Lori McDougal. Photo credit: Andy King
Red Cross President & CEO Gail McGovern takes a group "selfie" with the Social Advocates. Photo credit: Carrie Carlson-Guest
Red Cross President & CEO Gail McGovern takes a group “selfie” with the Social Advocates. Photo credit: Carrie Carlson-Guest

Our 2014 Heroes Breakfast Honorees

During our annual Heroes Breakfast, we honor people who have demonstrated the American Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering. This year we recognize six individuals, from across our region, who have performed acts of courage and kindness to help others. Below, we share their remarkable stories with you.

Community Hero: Pat Harris, St. Paul

The Community Award is sponsored by the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and presented to an individual who displayed leadership and commitment to his or her community by making a positive and significant impact.

Pat HarrisIn 2004, Pat Harris and friends sat around a table at Mancini’s in Saint Paul to enjoy steaks and cold beverages when inspiration struck the former St. Paul City Council Member. He would find a way to bring deployed Minnesota troops and their loved ones at home the same simple pleasure of sharing a meal with friends and family.

Soon after, Pat and his fellow community and business leaders founded Serving Our Troops, an organization whose goals are to provide a delicious meal to soldiers and families, to send a message of support from communities, and to promote awareness of Minnesota’s unprecedented military service.

The idea is simple: Pat and team bring delicious steaks around the world to the Minnesota National Guard. Simultaneously the troops’ families enjoy the same meal right here in Minnesota. Smiles and tears are shared at the two feasts, which are connected via live video feed.

Ten years later, Pat and the team continue to orchestrate Serving Our Troops events. To date, over 75,000 steaks have been served around the world, including in Kosovo, Kuwait and Iraq. Pat’s work has gained the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama, who publicly thanked Serving Our Troops in 2012. Pat insists that the true heroes are not himself and his dedicated volunteers, but rather the men and women who serve our country and their families back home in Minnesota.

Youth Good Samaritan Hero: Sydney Book, Red Wing

The Youth Good Samaritan Award is sponsored by the Medica Foundation and presented to a young person who displayed courage and caring upon encountering an unusual, significant, or unexpected incident.

Sydney BookDriving home with her mother from a volleyball game, 15-year-old Red Wing star-athlete Sydney Book was focused on reviewing her athletic performance. When they saw a motorcyclist collide with a vehicle, Sydney’s mother instructed the sophomore to call 911 and to stay in the car.

Though typically obedient, Sydney considered the situation, putting herself in the shoes of the victim’s family. She knew she would want bystanders to help her family as much as possible. Sydney previously trained in emergency care at the Red Cross, so she knew time was of the essence. She jumped out of the car and immediately began helping her mother address the injured motorcyclist’s severed leg, keeping him calm until first responders arrived.

Dakota County Deputy Sheriff Timothy Fletcher nominated Sydney for the Youth Good Samaritan Award for displaying maturity and poise beyond her years by calmly distracting the conscious man as first responders worked on his life-threatening injuries. Deputy Fletcher credited Sydney with delaying the effects of shock, likely saving the man’s life.

Sydney is proud that she contributed to saving someone. The experience has given her a perspective on the fragility of life and inspired her to study to be a paramedic in college.

Military Hero: Dennis Davis, Anoka

The Military Award is sponsored by UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans and presented to an active, reserve or retired member of the Armed Forces or ROTC who acted above and beyond the call of duty.

Dennis DavisSympathizing with the challenges of veterans transitioning to a civilian world, Air Force Reserve Captain Dennis Davis is dedicated to improving the lives and careers of those who serve our country.

A survivor of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from his service at the military’s only mortuary facility, the still active captain was faced with unfair stereotypes that affect many of our service members as they transition to life beyond the military. Determined to eliminate negative associations of veterans in the work place, Dennis began consulting with veterans and employers. He helps connect veterans to jobs by translating the values they bring to prospective employers- integrity, honor, excellence, adaptability, and team orientation.

Dennis has written two books about employment matters and PTSD, Not Your Average Joe: Profiles of Military Core Values and Why They Matter in the Private Sector, and An Epidemic of Distortions- Veteran PTSD (forthcoming fall 2014). He has proposed legislation to improve hiring practices for veterans, and worked tirelessly to make certain military members are adequately represented in the construction of the new Vikings stadium. This small-business owner and father of three is a great example of using negative experiences to improve the lives of many in a positive way.

 Good Samaritan Hero: Zoran Pedisic, Duluth

The Good Samaritan Award is sponsored by CenterPoint Energy and presented to an individual who displayed courage and caring upon encountering an unusual, significant, or unexpected incident.

Zoran PedisicOn November 1, 2013, Lake Superior Warehousing Foreman Zoran Pedisic noticed an elderly man approaching a nearby pier. Zoran was unsure why the man was at the site, until he saw him staring down at the 45 degree water. More than an arm’s length away when 90-year-old Bill Schowalter jumped, Zoran yelled for his co-workers to call 911.

Originally from an island in Croatia, Zoran, a seasoned swimmer, knew the muscle-freezing dangers of the frigid water. Still, without hesitation or concern for his own safety, Zoran leapt into the lake and grabbed hold of Schowalter, keeping him afloat until other members of the workforce pulled them both to safety.

Lake Superior Warehousing President, Jonathan Lamb, was not surprised that Zoran, who he describes as a natural leader of incredible character, was the staff member who saved the day. Although Zoran was given the day off to recover from his heroic actions, he did not want to let down his teammates. He returned to work after taking a hot shower at home.

First Responder Hero: Shane Linehan, Cottage Grove

The First Responder Award is sponsored by St. Jude Medical Foundation and presented to an individual or group of the public service community who went above and beyond the call of duty.

Shane LinehanWhile skiing with his family at Afton Alps, Shane Linehan saw a young snowboarder fall to the ground after completing a run. Because of his emergency training, this former Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy was aware of the signs of cardiac arrest and acted quickly. After administrating CPR, Shane used an AED device provided by Afton Alps and was able to resuscitate the 17-year-old pastor’s son from Wilson, Wisconsin.

In February, Shane assisted the young victim’s family further, by helping them move after a house fire took their home. The family is grateful for their son’s extra lease on life and is thankful to have a friend in Shane.

After the incident, Shane admitted that he recently retired from his position as a deputy sheriff due to issues associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Conquering his fears in a crisis situation has helped Shane to work towards self-healing.

Give Life Hero: Kate Ross, St. Paul

The Give Life Award is sponsored by the American Red Cross North Central Blood Services Region and 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.

Kate RossExhausted from being a full-time student and working full-time, Kate Ross fell asleep at the wheel going 60 mph in December of 2009. A guardrail severed her leg, and she was trapped in her car for an hour waiting for someone to discover her. Despite the trauma of the accident and the loss of her leg on Christmas Day, Kate is a positive, energetic young woman who is determined to give back the resource that helped her through 19 surgeries — life-saving blood.

When lifelong friend and co-worker asked Kate if she wanted to give blood, she was at first hesitant because of a fear of needles. After some gentle coaxing, Kate decided that she had to become a blood donor.

“I’m so grateful for the people who donated blood. If they hadn’t, I might not be alive today,” says Ross. “Four years after my accident, I am very excited to say that I have become a blood donor myself because I know how important it is to give something that means something – the gift of life.”

Kate has since become a regular donor and participated in the American Red Cross’ 12 Hours of Giving Holiday Blood Drive. She is a champion for amputee rights and a force for inspiring others to donate blood to the American Red Cross.

Join us June 5 at 7:30 a.m. at the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis for our 2014 Heroes Breakfast and help us honor our incredible heroes. To purchase tickets click here. For sponsorship details or for more information, please send an email to EventsNorthernMN@redcross.org or call 612-252-1047.