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.

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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.

Kate is training for the Run for Blood. Are you?

On July 25, the American Red Cross Minnesota Region will host the 2015 Run for Blood. This family-friendly walk and run event celebrates the people who give lifesaving blood and supports Red Cross blood services. This inspiring story helps tell why we’re doing this event and why you should participate, too. Go Kate Go!

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Kate Ross became a donor advocate following a life changing accident that required multiple surgeries and blood donations to save her life. Photo credit: Andy King

When you first meet Kate Ross you are instantly moved by her infectious smile and constant laughter. Her friends describe her as fun, inspiring, outgoing, incredible, full of energy, strong and a positive presence. She describes herself on her blog biography as a “student, animal lover, daughter and sister, spiritual, music-obsessed fitness enthusiast, artistic, friendly, optimistic and a volunteer.”

You would never sense from her upbeat demeanor or the words used to describe her that nearly five years ago her life changed in an instant, and she now proudly wears a fashionable crystal-studded, paisley prosthetic leg. Nowhere in the description of Kate could you tell that she was faced with a tragedy that could have easily left her feeling sorry for herself.

In fact, her story is quite the opposite.

“In December 2009, I was weary from the exhaustion of being a full-time student and working full time. I took my finals at school and on my way home that evening I fell asleep while driving,” said Ross. When she dozed off, she was traveling 60 mph and hit a guardrail, which penetrated her car and went through her right calf and thigh.

“I knew that something was drastically wrong with my leg, although I’m lucky that I didn’t realize there was a guardrail basically through my entire body at that point.”

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Red Cross advocate Kate Ross participated in the 2014 Run for Blood in Minneapolis. She’s training for the 2015 event and is planning to use a new prosthetic leg made especially for running. Photo credit: Andy King

Ross was taken by ambulance to the hospital, and after several surgeries, doctors put her in a medically induced coma. Seven days later, on Christmas Day, doctors made the grave decision to amputate her leg above the knee.

Ross underwent more nearly two years of occupational and physical therapy before her life returned to a “new normal.” Through 19 surgeries, she needed more than 25 pints of lifesaving blood products.

“I was very thankful for the blood being available when I needed it, but I never thought about being a blood donor myself because I’m terrified of needles.” But when her best friend and co-worker asked her to participate in a blood drive, she realized that, despite her fear, she should give blood, too.

“She reminded me it was donated blood that helped save my life after my accident. It was like a big, needed slap in the face that reminded me that I wouldn’t be here to tell my story if it hadn’t been for the generosity of blood donors.”

With a new found gratitude and outlook on life, Ross became a blood donor last year and strives to “be the good you wish to see in the world.” Once a blood recipient, now she is paying it forward.

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Kate Ross (l), a Red Cross Hero, is shown here with American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern during the 2014 Heroes Breakfast in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Andy King

“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. You never know when you or a loved one will be the one that needs blood.”

Ross is thankful for the heroes who helped save her life and has become an advocate for the Red Cross and a true hero herself. In 2014, she received an American Red Cross Minnesota Region Heroes Award that honors those who have made the simple, yet powerful decision to put their personal needs aside in order to help others.

Ross underwent another surgery last fall on her leg. She was fit for a new prosthetic that improves her mobility and allows her to run. She’s currently training for the 2015 Run for Blood walk and run event at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis on July 25.

Register today for the run and walk for blood!

Story by Sue Thesenga, Biomedical External Communications Manager, American Red Cross North Central Blood Services