2012 Heroes

Jim and Lila Cunningham

NuStar Energy Disaster Relief Hero

Jim and Lila Cunningham responded to an astonishing 21 fire cases this July as part of American Red Cross Disaster Services. There to help clients going through unimaginable loss, the Cunninghams regularly provided clients with food, shelter, a safe place to sleep and even shoulders to cry on.

Since 2005, Jim and Lila have responded to 17 disaster relief operations across the country, and they have logged more than 2,500 hours of volunteer service just this year. The two have gone above and beyond to help families prevent, prepare for and

respond to disasters.

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Richard Dixon

BKD Community Hero

Richard Dixon regularly donates money to local organizations, but he believes donating time is much more important. Rick has been a board member for the Northwest Branch of the YMCA and Mid American Credit Union. He is highly involved with the First Presbyterian Church and is a member of Downtown Wichita Rotary Club.

This husband, father and grandfather is a great example for our community. Donating time, money, and life-saving blood, Rick gives all he can to help friends, family and the greater community as a whole.

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T.J. Popp

Apex Engineering EMS Hero

The stage was set for a beautiful wedding and the ceremony was about to begin when tragedy struck. Moya Bieker, grandmother of the bride, fell down the stairs before the ceremony. She was lying still on the steps in a puddle of blood when T.J. Popp jumped into action. He calmly assessed his grandmother’s wounds and issued orders to family members and paramedics who responded to the call.

T.J. was off duty that day, but that didn’t keep him from doing his job. He even managed to joke with his grandmother and keep his tuxedo clean throughout the entire process. Once Moya was transported, T.J. fulfilled his duties as a groomsman.

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Captain Jeff Toews

Emprise Bank Firefighter Hero

Captain Jeff Toews, Wichita Fire Department, is dedicated to community risk reduction and has touched the lives of approximately 15,000 students through Operation Prom Night. The event highlights the effects of drinking and driving with two wrecked cars, the help of emergency crews and student actors.

Captain Toews has been coordinating the impactful event since 2002. Beginning in January, he meets with students, sponsors, administrators, emergency crews and donors to plan each event. Captain Toews has gone above and beyond to make a difference in his community and in the lives of young people.

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Phil Palmer

iSi Environmental Give Life Hero

hil Palmer’s impressive donation record all began with a friendly challenge from a coworker. Now, 30 years later, Phil has donated at least 125 pints of blood. Nothing stops Phil from making his regular donation‚ he just believes it’s important.

Phil’s been the recipient of a blood transfusion, so he knows how important the lifesaving donations are. And while he was never able to serve in the military, Phil believes donating blood is a way he can give back to our country and to help save the lives of others.

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Officer Steven Jerrell

INTRUST Bank Law Enforcement Hero

Officer Steven Jerrell has helped reduce crime rates in the city of Wichita by building partnerships in the community. He is not only an officer on 48 beat; he is a part of the community. Since 2002, Officer Jerrell has been instrumental in developing the Safe Streets program and Youth Corps Program.

Ten years ago, Officer Jerrell came up with the idea of Summer Activity Camps to keep kids off the street. He partnered with the Parks and Recreation Department to make it happen. The result has been three separate summer camps and a drop in crime rates for all areas surrounding the camps.

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Terry Maher

Spirit AeroSystems Good Samaritan Hero

Terry is no stranger to disaster. Growing up, she was affected by a hurricane in Florida. Through the previous disaster, her father taught her the compassion to serve others, and it was that lesson from Florida that paved the way for her heroic act in Wichita.

Compelled to help after the Wichita tornado, Terry was determined to do something. Terry’s humanitarian spirit was drawn to Bill Richter, a Red Cross shelter resident. Thanks to Terry and Red Cross, Bill’s recovery was streamlined.

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First Lieutenant Craig Van Praag

Capitol Federal Military Hero

On Oct. 3, 1st Lt. Craig Van Praag took a late lunch in the McConnell Air Force Base Exchange Food Court. While there, he saved a man’s life.

First Lt. Van Praag noticed a man in distress when he entered the dining room that day. He heard him coughing and it was soon clear that he couldn’t breathe. 1st Lt. Van Praag performed abdominal thrusts, the only time he has used them since training, and was able to dislodge the foreign object from the man’s throat. Then, he went on with the rest of the day.

He said he was just doing what anyone else would have done for him, but word quickly spread throughout the base about his lifesaving actions.

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Zackary Goddard

Metro Xpress Youth Good Samaritan Hero

Some people think that working with students with special needs would be a tough job, but East High senior Zack Goddard does it with a smile on his face. He works with the special needs class at East High and helps coach the special needs soccer and basketball teams. He is a member of the Circle of Friends Club, which focuses on special needs students who may not be accepted by others. Zack even gives up his lunch period to eat lunch with an autistic student who is overwhelmed in the cafeteria.

Zack is truly a role model, not only for the special needs students, but for everyone at East High. Zack also volunteers as a peer mediator where he helps settle disputes before they get out of hand. Because he is making East High a better place, Zack is being recognized as the Metro Xpress Youth Good Samaritan Hero.

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