We’re honoring our Heroes TONIGHT!

The night of our Do You Know A Hero? Celebration is finally here!

Tonight, at the Rapid Air hangar, your local American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids will be celebrating the Heroes in our community and how they have inspired us all!

Our Heroes include:

Peter and Joan Secchia — Hometown Heroes

With an impressive record of civic involvement, Peter and Joan Secchia have lent their hands, hearts and resources to hundreds of causes in our community. This year, we are honoring the Secchias as our Hometown Heroes.

With an diverse history that includes a former US Ambassadorship to Italy, the Secchias have worked tirelessly for years to improve the world around them. Their recent generous donation to bring the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine to Grand Rapids, to be named ‘the Secchia Center,’ is but one example of their commitment to enriching our community and providing stability for our economic and educational future. Their contributions spread far and wide, and we seek to honor the part that the Secchias have played not only the past, but into the future.

The instrumental and significant part that the Secchias have played in improving this community is monumental, and we are very pleased to honor them both as our Hometown Heroes.

Officer Robert Kozminski

In the early morning hours of July 8, 2007, Officer Robert Kozminski, along with several other officers, responded to a domestic disturbance call in a Grand Rapids neighborhood. A family member inside the home was reported to have a gun, and was threatening to kill the other people in the home.

Once they arrived at the scene, Officer Kozminski approached the home carefully. While establishing a perimeter in the back of the house, he was shot in the head by the gunman who had been lying in wait in the garage. He was taken to a local hospital by his fellow officers, but sadly, by doing a brave deed to keep safe those he had sworn to protect, Officer Robert Kozminski died from his injuries.

A seven-year veteran of the GRPD, 29-year old Robert was survived by a three-year old daughter, his parents and six siblings. His brave actions to protect the people and families of this community will never be forgotten. He is truly a hero to all who knew him.

Craig Van Ess

Starting in 1992, Craig began running in triatholons as a way to keep in shape. But just competing wasn’t enough — he wanted a reason outside himself for which to compete. Soliciting local sponsors for each race he competed in, Craig used the money he raised to donate to the cause of Habitat for Humanity. Over the past six years, he has raised significant support through his participation in Ironman contests.

“Individuals, my employer (Fifth Third Bank), and area businesses have been so supportive,” says Craig. “One hundred percent of all the money I raise from each Ironman (2.4 mile swim/112 mile bike/26.2 mile run) goes directly to Habitat. I don’t use a dime on my expenses because I’ve been so blessed. This community has given me so much, I feel an obligation to give back. Through Habitat, I can help locally. All the money I raise is earmarked for this community.”

Craig’s “sweat equity” program aims to keep its goals high, and he hopes to continue to do his part in giving people in our community a place to call home.

Kenneth Jamerson

In the case of this hero, it was pure coincidence that helped him to save to a life.

In October 2007, while trying to put out a small fire in her house, 65-year old semi-invalid Dorothy Dean accidentally caught her clothing on fire. She attempted to escape, but was unable to make it out by herself. Her neighbor heard cries for help. The neighbor could see that Dean was partway out her front door, yelling for help.

The neighbor ran across the street to help, while her husband called the fire department. Unfortunately, she was unable to pull Dean out on her own. Luckily, passerby Kenneth Jamerson saw the disturbance and went in to find the neighbor with Dean in the living room, trying unsuccessfully to get her out. Jamerson stepped in to help and was able to pull both Dean and her neighbor out of the house and to safety.

Jamerson is being honored as a hero for his bravery, sense of unquestioned moral duty, and quick thinking that saved a life.

Miya and Tiffany Peyregne

On a late July day this past summer, nine-year old Tiffany and six-year old Miya saved their father’s life.

While swimming in their backyard pool, their dad, David, became light-headed and dizzy and sunk to the bottom of the pool. When he didn’t resurface from underwater after a minute or so, his daughters took action.

Having both been trained in basic safety, Miya grabbed a floatie and put on her goggles to go to the bottom and retrieve her father. She was able to get ahold of him and drag him up the pool steps, making sure to keep his head above water. Meanwhile, her sister ran inside to call for help. David recovered and is forever grateful to his daughters for their quick-thinking rescue.

“I’ve always trained them to heed safety while in the pool,” he said. “I figured it would be for them, and they were listening.”

Wings of Mercy

Providing free flights to distant medical facilities, Wings of Mercy offers hope to persons in need of medical care. Wings of Mercy was created in 1991 by a retired businessman, along with a group of pilots. Once they began offering their services, the response was overwhelming.

It is estimated that over 80% of the clients would not be able to go for specialized treatment if this kind of service was not available. With this kind of need, Wings of Mercy has expanded, and two more chapters have opened since its creation, one in Eastern Michigan and one in Minnesota. They offer flights to those living in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

All the flights are crewed by volunteer pilots and often flight nurses. The owners/operators of the aircrafts are only reimbursed for fuel, and many refuse even that. It is a organization full of heart and hope that is funded entirely by charitable donations.

“When I fly with Wings of Mercy, I feel that we are flying among the angels,” said one client.

Thanks to our Heroes, our sponsors and all those attending who will help make this night a big success!

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