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American Red Cross Nebraska/SW Iowa Honors Local Heroes at 13th Annual Event

NEIA Heroes 2013
Recognizing these incredible people and sharing their stories was such an honor. -- Mark Grohe

The Nebraska/SW Iowa Region of the American Red Cross continued celebrating Red Cross Month yesterday with the 13th Annual Heroes in the Heartland awards luncheon at the Embassy Suites-La Vista. This year’s event featured heartwarming stories of heroism and dedication the Omaha metro and Southwest Iowa.

“Recognizing these incredible people and sharing their stories was such an honor,” says Mark Grohe, Board Chair, of the Nebraska/SW Iowa Region of the American Red Cross. “We would like to thank everyone who assisted in putting the event together, all of our corporate and individual sponsors who supported and attended the event, and especially our 2013 Heroes in the Heartland for their outstanding work in the community.”

This year’s Heroes include Principal Laura Hickman and Bruce Moore from Duchesne Academy. Moore and Hickman were presented the Call to Action Award after they successfully used life-saving skills that they learned from the American Red Cross, to save a near lifeless teacher who wasn’t breathing last school year. The Disaster Response Award went go to Rod and Mason Umphreys of Thurman, Iowa. The Umphreys men put the safety of the residents of Thurman first, warning them as a large tornado was churning toward the town. Mason alerted Rod of the menacing twister, minutes before Mayor Rod Umphreys left his home to sound the sirens at the fire station. The Commitment to Community Award went to the Empowerment Network. The Empowerment Network and its partners focus on seven areas to improve the entire city: Employment, Education and Youth Development, Sustainable Neighborhoods, Faith, Violence Intervention and Prevention, Healthy Families, and finally Arts/Culture and Hi story. Together they are making neighborhoods safer, reducing violence, improving education, and putting people to work. Sherie Peterson was awarded the Military Award, for her outstanding commitment and service to Nebraska’s Family Readiness Group which provides vital support to members of our Armed Forces. The Good Samaritan Award went to 13-year-old Vyzion Gonzalez-Franklin. Vyzion had been swimming at Elmwood Pool last summer, when he felt something strange under the water. He saw a small boy lifeless at the bottom of the pool and alerted lifeguards and pulled te small boy to the surface. Four members of the Omaha Fire Department received the Public Servant Award. The firefighters tried every tool they while trying to save a man who was trapped under a vehicle that crashed into his home, but could not free the victim. Only one option remained, the firemen lifted the car so the trapped victim could squeeze out. And this year the Gift of Life Award went to Lily Dotso n and her family. Lily is a 6-year old girl battling leukemia and needs blood transfusions often. The Dotson family is raising awareness of the need for blood and supports Red Cross blood drives around the Omaha Metro.

In addition to acknowledging these 12 local heroes, seven Heroes Essay Contest winners were honored at the luncheon. Fifth through eighth grade students in the Omaha metro area were given the opportunity to submit an essay about their own everyday heroes. About 700 essays were submitted. The winners include: Stephanie De La Cruiz from Norris Middle School, Emma Kock from Walnut Community School, Quincey Loveridge from Millard North Middle School, Emma Schartz from Christ the King, Chance Van Dyne from Platteview Central Junior High, and Seth Young from Treynor Middle School.

For information on how to contact our Heroes, or to nominate your own hero for upcoming recognition events, contact Alyson Westby Roach at (402) 689-3683. Photos from yesterday’s event will soon be available at and Videos of the Heroes’ stories will be posted on