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.

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.

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

New Social Advocates Supporting Red Cross Heroes

For the first time in our Red Cross region, and throughout the Red Cross nation-wide, local social media power is pulling together to support the Red Cross and Heroes Awards winners. Using their own digital capital, this new team of Social Advocates will share our Northern Minnesota Region’s Heroes stories of helping others in a great time of need. This work, which the Social Advocates are doing freely as good will for a great cause, will promote the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in times of emergency.

Please join us in welcoming the new Social Advocates. Follow them. Like them. The Social Advocates will be on hand at the 2014 Heroes Breakfast in Minneapolis on June 5. Go here to read more about the 2014 Heroes. Our event hashtag is #MNHeroes14. 

LizLiz Heinecke – Science Extraordinaire | Educator | Writer | Mom

After working in molecular biology research for ten years, Liz Heinecke left the lab to kick off a new chapter in her life as a stay-at-home mom, sharing her love of science with her three kids and journaling their science adventures on her KitchenPantryScientist.com website.  Before long, she was demonstrating science on TV and had co-created KidScience app for iPhone/iPod Touch. Her book, Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (QuarryBooks.com) shares 52 fun science experiments for all ages and will be on shelves Aug.1, 2014.

Liz graduated from Luther College and received her master’s degree in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. You can find her at home in Minnesota, wrangling her kids, writing for her website, updating KidScience app, teaching microbiology to nursing students, singing, playing banjo, painting, running, and doing almost anything else to avoid housework.

Follow Liz on Twitter: @KitchPantrySci

Like Liz on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KitchenPantryScientist

Stephen LitelStephen Litel – Writer | Blogger | Father

Stephen Litel is a father of two and a former sports writer who now blogs at Stephen Says. His blog focuses on the pursuit of happiness—acknowledging his own battles with depression—and how only true happiness can come from an internal pursuit, not chasing things outside of yourself. Between writing about happiness, being a parent of an autistic child, stretching his comfort zones and the life lessons learned from each, Litel has a lot to talk about.

Follow Stephen on Twitter: @StephenLitel


Aly WallbergAly Wallberg – Healthcare Marketer | Public Speaking Expert | St. Paul Tweetup Coordinator

Aly Wallberg is a communicator, speaker and volunteer. She brings experience in health care, nonprofit development and post-secondary teaching to her current role as Marketing Account Specialist at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. A proud Saint Paulite, she currently coordinates the Saint Paul Tweetup, a casual networking group that meets monthly to celebrate all the fair city has to offer. She has served as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters since 2011. Aly also loves reading, yoga and hanging out with cats and dogs.

Follow Aly on Twitter: @AlyWallberg

Scott JohnsonScott K. Johnson – Diabetes Advocate | Writer | Speaker

Scott K. Johnson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in April of 1980. He has been writing about his struggles and successes with diabetes since late 2004. He is currently blogging at Scott’s Diabetes, working as the Communications Lead, USA for mySugr, and contributing to many other diabetes related projects.

Scott works full time in the diabetes space as a freelance writer, speaker, and consultant, and says, “Living my life and telling my story allows me to bravely advocate for type 1 diabetes awareness and give back to a community that has improved my life in so many ways.” Scott lives with his family near the Minneapolis, MN area.

Follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottKJohnson

Like Scott on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/scottkjohnson.diabetes

Tami CabreraTami Cabrera – Small Business Owner | Community Volunteer | Mother | Lover of all Things Cheesecake

Tami Cabrera grew up in the restaurant industry and is the owner of Muddy Paws Cheesecake Co. After moving here from the Chicago area in 1991, Tami could not find the cheesecake she’d grown up with. After searching several years for it, she decided to make and sell her own. She rented a small hourly kitchen and within a year her business had grown enough to leave her job to take the business full-time. Today they produce some of the finest cheesecake in the nation and have won dozens of local awards including Best Cheesecake Minnesota by the viewers of WCCO. She has been featured on the Food Network, WCCO, Kare 11, Twin Cities Live, and was chosen in 2011 to go to the White House for her work in social media. Cabrera won the Minnesota Social Media Marketer award for 2010. When she’s not at the bakery, she spends time with her four small children, her three dogs, a second small business, and she volunteers at Perspectives Inc. as a guest chef. Tami also is on the Program Advisory Committee at Le Cordon Bleu.

Follow Tami on Twitter: @TJCabrera

Like Tami on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MUDDYPAWSCHEESECAKE

Kevin SchreifelsDr. Kevin Schreifels – Chiropractor | Father | Educator | Blogger | Runner

Dr. Kevin Schreifels is the Owner of Lyn Lake Chiropractic, the Official Chiropractor for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Clinical Faculty of Northwestern Health Science University, Guest Lecturer at the University of Minnesota on running injuries and prevention, and Blogger on health issues and prevention.

Kevin has run more than 10 marathons, 10K’s and triathalons, and has raced with the Kenwood Cycling Team. His first date with his wife was a run around Lake Harriet. He’s a father of 3 beautiful girls and everyone that knows his family knows that on any given day or weekend they are all either running around the lakes, biking or skiing. Kevin spends a great deal of volunteering at local schools, running clubs and businesses educating people about health and awareness.

Follow Kevin on Twitter: @lynlakechiros

Like Kevin on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LynLakeChiros

Abigail HarrisonAbigail Harrison – Future First Astronaut to Mars | Student | STEM Classroom Educator | Motivational Speaker

Abigail Harrison aka Astronaut Abby is a junior who attends South High School and the University of Minnesota. Abby has a dream to be the first astronaut to Mars. She has taken her dream online and built a community of over 150,000 followers and fans who support her dream. In turn, Abby has setup a worldwide outreach program in which is speaks to schools and events near and far about space, STEM and reaching for dreams. Abby has taken a leadership role in the space community promoting the Future of Space. Recently Abby was invited to give a TEDx talk in Tampa Bay and as she stated in her talk her Tedx dream was that each member of the audience would leave with inspiration to Dream Big, Act Big and Inspire Others.

In Abby’s spare time, she is a committed athlete training year round in gymnastics, loves reading science fiction and has developed a keen interest in extreme sports, such as her recent experiences of bungee jumping and becoming a certified scuba diver. She looks forward to her next experience, which she hopes will be parachuting, parasailing, skydiving or pretty much anything that includes flying.

Follow Abby on Twitter: @AstronautAbby

Like Abby on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AstronautAbby

Jamie HeilJamie Heil – Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse | Blogger | Mom

My name is Jamie and I am the proud mom of four kiddos- two of which were born to me, one of which is 4-legged, and the other is my hubby….because let’s be honest, sometimes husbands take as much work as kids and dogs do! My husband and I have been happily (for the most part) married for 13 years and our girls are in preschool and second grade. Our four-legged daughter is a French Bulldog.

During the week I am a blogger at ToysInTheDryer.com and a social media addict. On the weekends I am a pediatric intensive care nurse. Yes, you read that right, I work on the weekends so I can stay home with my girls during the week. I am a true extrovert, lover of wine, photography, frogs, and the colors pink and yellow.  I am a tom-boy at heart, but don’t mid getting girly every now and then. I really wish I could play the violin.

Follow Jamie on Twitter: @ToysInTheDryer

Like Jamie on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ToysInTheDryer

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.