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Seven Local Heroes Recognized in Des Moines

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“Their shining example is what we should all try to achieve." - Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert

Nearly 450 guests gathered bright and early on Thursday, March 2 to celebrate seven local heroes who have made a positive impact on their communities and exemplify the American Red Cross mission.

The Red Cross and title sponsor, Nationwide, hosted the 2017 Central Iowa Heroes of the Heartland breakfast at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines.

The breakfast ran from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and highlights included emcees Alyx Sacks and Riley O’Connor of KCCI, special remarks on heroism by Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert and touching videos featuring each hero, produced by Screenscape Studios.

“These selfless acts with absolutely nothing expected in return are what define a hero,” said Chief Wingert during his speech. “Their shining example is what we should all try to achieve."

The 2017 Central Iowa Heroes have changed the world around them for the better by saving lives using CPR, working with veterans suffering from PTSD, helping the homeless and dedicating their lives to working with children in need.

After serving 35 years in the military, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Tieszen of Johnston now puts his heart into his work as a Suicide Prevention Program Manager to help veterans that suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“You are made for a purpose,” he said he tells the veterans. “If you need my hand, let’s go. ‘Cause I’m going to drag you, pull you (or) put you on my back. We’re going to get there.”

The importance of knowing CPR is widely understood, but not everyone has training and even fewer have to put their knowledge to the test.

Four local Iowa heroes demonstrated their CPR skills when those around them needed it the most. 

Lori Baker of Lanesboro reacted quickly using her training as a first responder for Carroll County to save a 73- year-old customer who collapsed while on the job at the Lidderdale New Co-Op. Garret Caltrider of Menlo and Emmy Godfroy of Earlham saved a 9-year-old girl from drowning while on duty as lifeguards at the Stuart Aquatic Center.

Joe Watznauer, a 10th grade student at Dallas Center-Grimes High School, used his knowledge from a Red Cross CPR class to save his father’s life after finding him unresponsive one day after school.

Two local heroes have devoted their time and energy to improving the lives of people in their communities.

Reverend Milton Cole of West Des Moines has dedicated his life to serving others and spends a significant time working with groups that help the homeless. He gathers food to deliver to those in need and has even given the shoes off his feet to a man.

Dr. Lisa Menzies, a pediatrician at Blank Children’s Pediatric Clinic Des Moines, has worked with children and families in the Des Moines Area for 23 years. Dr. Menzies spends substantial time at ChildServe in Johnston and demonstrates huge compassion by staying with critically ill children in their time of need.

"You just want to make sure they have the best life that they can," says Dr. Menzies of the children she cares for.

Five local students were also awarded with certificates and $100 checks for writing about their heroes in the Heroes of the Heartland essay contest. One student calls her teacher her hero because she “helps see our potential on the inside.” Another student said about her hero, “Grandma is funny, courageous, loving and lots of other things.”

Fourth-grader winners include Autumn Elbert of Martensdale-St. Mary’s School, Allie Fuller of Lakewood Elementary in Norwalk and Isabelle Huggins of Perkins Academy in Des Moines. Fifth grade winners include Anya Kallenbach and Sophia Shannon both of Lakewood Elementary.

This event is the primary fundraiser for the Red Cross in Central Iowa and nearly $130,000 was raised this year. This year also marked the 15th anniversary.

Videos from Central Iowa Heroes of the Heartland can be viewed, here. To see photos, click here