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.
The arrival of the holiday season often means spending time and exchanging gifts with family and friends. But what if the gift you needed couldn’t be bought? For patients like Mike McMahon, the generosity of blood donations was the perfect gift and didn’t cost anything other than a bit of someone’s time.
Following a tragic tree felling accident on Nov. 10, 2016, McMahon, a Stillwater, Minnesota resident, suffered life-threatening injuries. He needed 11 units of blood during emergency surgery to keep him alive.
He spent the next six weeks in the intensive care unit and inpatient rehab, including three weeks during which he had to be intubated as he was unable to breathe on his own.
During his hospital stay, he also experienced an ulcer on a major artery in his intestines. The ulcer was so severe that he needed an additional seven units of blood and the artery was coiled to stop the hemorrhaging.
“I remember clearly as my nurse hooked me up to the first bag of blood,” said McMahon. “The thought of blood passing through another person’s heart and now into me, to keep me alive, was very emotional. From the first pint to the last, each one was equally moving.”
McMahon was told that he might not be able to do a lot of things ever again – his future was uncertain. However, just a few days before Christmas he was released from the hospital.
McMahon is thankful for blood donors and credits blood donation with helping save his life. “I’m grateful for the donors who gave me such an amazing gift – to spend Christmas and more holidays with my family. I was an occasional blood donor before the accident – today I donate as often as I can to help ensure others receive the same gift of life.”
You can give patients like McMahon more time and memories this holiday season by donating blood at the American Red Cross 6th annual 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive at Inwood Oaks in Oakdale, Minnesota. As a special thanks, all who come to give will be treated to free parking, complimentary gift wrapping, a special gift bag, a long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt, and holiday food and entertainment and will be automatically entered into hourly prize drawings including grand prizes – a large flat panel TV and a HP laptop computer.
To make an appointment to give blood at the 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive, donors can click here or use sponsor code 12 hours on the Red Cross Blood Donor App, online at redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
We hope to see you at the 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive. Happy holidays from your friends at the Red Cross!
Story and photo by Sue Thesenga/American Red Cross
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
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.
Duluth teen Bryden Bronikowski was honored with the Youth Good Samaritan Hero Awardfor 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 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.
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.
On 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.