2013 HEROES

~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Dr. Gordon Sumner ~ Veterans Adviser to Presidents Bush and Obama: Executive Director, National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve / Military Order of The Purple Heart

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Dr. Gordon Sumner has served the Bush and Obama Administrations as an Adviser on Veterans Concerns. He’s served as the Executive Director of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (NCESGR). He’s one of the foremost experts in the country on veterans concerns. Dr. Gordon Sumner is a Harvard graduate, was a member of the Senior Executive Service and Presidential Appointee by President George W. Bush. Dr. Sumner served as Principal Adviser to the Secretary of Defense on all matters involving employer support programs for all the Reserve components of the United States Armed Forces. His outreach to and support of US Military Veterans, especially disabled Veterans, has been astounding!

He’s the CEO of Gordon Sumner Consulting, LLC, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business and Native American Small Business: An American Indian / Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Veterans Enterprise and the Commonwealth of Virginia Disadvantaged Small Business Office.
He’s also President of Veterans Moving Forward, Inc, whose organization’s mission is to provide trained/certified service dogs to veterans with physical and mental health challenges.

 

~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Dr. Irene Butter ~ Holocaust Survivor and a Living Example of Human Rights!

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Dr. Irene Butter, PhD in Economics, is a courageous survivor of the Holocaust. She was instrumental in helping to start the Raoul Wallenberg Award that the University of Michigan offers every year. Among other great humanitarians, the Raoul Wallenberg Award has honored the Dalai Lama, Ross Perot, and Hans Göran Persson, former Prime Minister of Sweden.

Irene has carried on her great humanitarian work year to year as the organizer of the outstanding and inspiring women’s dialogue group called “Refusing to be Enemies”. This internationally known group is composed of six Jewish women and six Palestinian women called “Zeitouna“. Their mission is to prove to the world that despite our ethic and cultural differences, we are at heart all part of the Human Family!

 

~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Pastor Chukwunenye Onuoha ~

A Spiritual Leader from Nigeria, Now Serving God’s Cover Church in New York

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My name is Pastor Chukwunenye Onuoha. I am proud to serve God’s Cover Church in Queens New York. I am 46 years old. I was born in Umuire, Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria and I moved to this country with my wonderful wife, Ijeoma, and my three beautiful girls in 2006. My parents taught me many lessons that made me the person I am today. They taught me how to care and share with others. As a child, I was bringing other children to feed in our home. My parents supported my idea by feeding as many children I can bring to our home during lunch or dinner. At the age of 22, I started a scholarship program that helped many students to graduate from hard schools, colleges, and vocational institutions. I invested all the money I’ve made working for Coca-Cola Company in Nigeria on charity activities. I have no regrets whatsoever spending my life earnings on people. I did not look for any recognitions or any payment from them.

I stared God’s Cover Church International in Queens, New York three years ago. Here I give spiritual counseling and support the people in need. The church will soon have a soup kitchen for woman and children by this year. We are also constructing a free math and science building for children within the ages of 5-10 in Aba, Nigeria.

“My goal is to touch people’s lives in a way that they can never forget so that they can also turn other people’s lives around. We can only fix this world by fixing the people who live in it.”

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~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Father John Powis ~ “The Rebel With a Cause!”

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Father John Powis is a spiritual leader in our world and, as such, rates deep respect. Yes. But true respect is EARNED, and Father Powis has earned every bit of our RESPECT due to his love of Humanity. Father Powis has been affectionately called “the Martin Luther King of the Catholic Church” and “The Rebel With a Cause!”

He took his initial training in the housing projects, assisting an order of nuns devoted to the poor. He arrived at Presentation in 1963, a time when many whites, fearful of the blacks and Hispanics moving in, decided they would rather be someplace else. Father Powis led his own small reverse migration. His thinking was that the church should nourish body as well as spirit. Parishioners complained of few jobs, bad housing, and overcrowded schools, and he sought to bring his pulpit into the streets. He helped persuade the city to let some of Brownsville’s children ride buses to attend under-utilized schools in white neighborhoods.

He and others urged an alternative on city officials. “We said, ‘Let us run our own schools.’ We wanted African-American and Hispanic principals. They would always pass the written test and then fail the oral interviews. We needed some people who understood the children. Well, we got African-American and Hispanic principals!”

 

 ~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Attorney, Laurel Kaufer ~ Professional Mediator and Co-founder of The Prison of Peace Project

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Laurel Kaufer is an Attorney, Mediator and Arbitrator in Los Angeles, CA. Named 2012 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year for Pro Bono Services, Kaufer is a past chair of the California State Bar Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution, a Diplomat of the California and National Academies of Distinguished Neutrals and a regular instructor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

As co-founder of Prison of Peace, Kaufer has taken on the profound task of transforming women serving time in prison into Peacemakers. In response to a request from an inmate to teach mediation to a group of lifers and long-termers, in order to reduce the violence in prison, she created a program which provides communication, peacemaking and mediation skills to inmates and then prepares them to train others. In the process of learning, using and sharing these skills with others in the prison environment, these women shift from Serving Life to Living a Life of Service. Prison of Peace is now expanding to the remaining women’s prisons in California and a men’s prison, as well as Los County Jails and Los Angeles County Juvenile Services.

 

~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Dr. Craig Oster ~ A 19 year survivor of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)

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I am Dr. Craig Oster. In 1994, at the age of 30, I was given the “death sentence” diagnosis of ALS, better known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Even though my physical functioning was slipping away, I successfully fought to fulfill my dream of earning a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Michigan State University in 1996. I entered hospice in late 2008, after I had lost over 45 pounds of muscle and was requiring breathing machines to make it through the night. Digging deeply and praying  earnestly, with an undeterred spirit I gave everything to continuing my holistic healing quest. On May 30th, 2009, I am ecstatic to say, I was discharged from hospice!

Now I am the Co-founder and Director of THE HEALERS campaign which is conducting innovative ALS scientific research in collaboration with scientists from Harvard University, University of Brasilia, and Catholic University of Milan, Italy. I am on a mission to demonstrate as much wellness as possible and to inspire people to approach whatever “hand that they have been dealt in life” in the most constructive manner possible.

 

~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Steve Fagan ~ Helping children & adults to stand up against Bullying… for a brighter Human Future!

Helping children & adults to stand up against  Bullying... for a brighter Political Future!

Steve Fagan is the founder and developer of Fagan & Associates, Inc. a network Life and Business Coaching Organization. Steve is a Certified Professional Life Coach & a Certified Master Business Coach. Steve is not only an exemplary Coach, Motivator and Business Man… Steve is a Visionary! He looks into the future and creates the puzzle pieces to make sure the future become reality. Steve’s Motto is: “Live with Pure Love in Your Heart, and Pure Honesty on Your Lips.”

Steve is a strong contributor to The St Jude Children’s hospital, a very worthwhile and important program for very ill children. He is also an advocate for anti-bullying in his avid involvement with The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation. The Foundation, founded and chaired by rugby World Cup Champion Ben Cohen, MBE, is the world’s first dedicated to anti-­bullying and equality in sports. Former major league baseball player, Billy Bean, is the Vice Chairman of its board. Steve is also the National Executive Committee Chairman for The Twelve Visions Party a political movement that believes Everyone has The Right to Prosper and Live Happily. The Platform: Make Everyone Wealthy Including The Poor has become a gathering point sparking many to an awareness of great alternative choices in our political future.

 

~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Becki Hawkins ~ A Hospice Nurse who has learned the Blessing of Life through her Terminal Patients

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Becki Hawkins is a marvel. When most of us turn away from dealing with the subject of cancer, Becki welcomes cancer patients into her life. A 30-year Oncology/Hospice Nurse, Becki has touched the lives of her patients with patience, and with those very special intangibles of love and compassion. Becki has truly helped to change lives. Beck has been there to the end with her patients, and has been there always as a comforting force for the family of her patients. Her experiences have opened her to greater wisdom and have taught her the true meaning of love!

Becki goes where few of us dare to go. Among the many life issues Becki deals with on a daily basis is the one enveloped in this stunning question: What Can The Dying Teach Us About Living?

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~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Larry Johnson: An All-round Humanitarian… since Thirteen Years Old!

Mr. Larry Johnson: All-round Humanitarian!

Right from the start my destiny was to be a COMMUNITY ORGANIZER! I had the honor of growing up in a part of Newark New Jersey which was also the home to my friend and mentor the great writer Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones). I met and was influenced by some of the most influential social leaders of all time: Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Rap Brown and Maulana Karenga. By the age of 13, I was hooked on learning how to help create a better life for the people in our wonderful community. I started a newspaper called the “Stirling Street News” which even then searched for a deeper and wider integrated approach to solving the problems that face all people around the globe.

I organized and established Community Patrol in the different housing projects in Newark for “Committee For A Unified Newark”. I was one of the key organizers for internal and external security along with personal security for the first National Black Assembly held in Gary Indiana. It was attended by over 8000 delegates from across the United States. This single event is responsible for the majority of Black Elected Officials across this country!

I, Larry Johnson, am now a public speaker. I speak around the country on various topics focusing on entrepreneurship, motivation, limited government and the protection of individual rights. As a public speaker, I travel the world spreading the message of the amazing benefits coming from removing initiatory force from society leading to virtually limitless individual freedom for all people!

 

~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Hungarian born, Vera Matty ~ “Helping others comes naturally to me”

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I, Vera Matty, was brought up with Philanthropists, with people that always cared for their own family members and other people too… especially those that needed help. I have worked as a VOLUNTEER with the New York Unemployment Project, for the ACLU and for the Central Park Conservancy.

During this time of volunteering, a fateful thing occurred. The president of the New York Unemployment project, Jonathan Rosen, invited me a number of times to travel with him and his assistant to Washington DC, TO TALK TO THE SENATORS, and CONGRESSMAN about the urgent need to help people in New York! Wow! It involved the very treacherous situation of little children living in shelters. On one of the trips to Washington DC, I met with SENATOR TED KENNEDY and also SENATOR CLINTON! And on one of the following trips, the President himself told me that they would like me to SPEAK IN THE SENATE! Again, I said “Wow”! My speech was on a TELEVISED PRESS CONFERENCE to represent Senator Clinton, and help her PASS THE BILL. I knew that millions of people will be listening. I knew that I would have to do a good job – to help everyone – including our 9 million unemployed people. I will say, to my great joy, my speech was very well received by the US Senator…in fact, they were overjoyed with it. And , again, perhaps fatefully – Senator Clinton’s bill passed!!

These are some of the significant examples of human service in my life…as I engaged in looking after others – helping others. To write more – would turn into a NOVEL…a real one… as I love to write as much as I love to serve! 

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~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Parker B. Pennington ~ World Class Skater who serves Muscular Dystrophy too!

~ Parker B. Pennington (World Class Skater who serves Muscular Dystrophy too!)Parker B. Pennington is a talented young man with World Class Skating abilities. Parker is the ONLY SKATER to EVER CLAIM U.S. NATIONAL TITLES at these 4 Levels: Juvenile, Intermediate, Novice & Junior. He has competed internationally representing Team USA for over 12 years, traveling to more than 14 countries, while claiming a bronze medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final. Add to this that, outside of skating, Parker has appeared in a commercial as a stunt double for Woody Allen, and you have mammoth achievements that few of us could trump!

~ But why is Parker a credit to our People of Distinction Humanitarian Awards?

Because Parker has given back to the community, helping to make a difference for many through his philanthropic efforts, including creating the first ever benefit skating show supporting the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Parker’s father, Dr. Larry Pennington, a New England veterinarian, suffers from muscular dystrophy.
In 2008 and 2009, Parker produced and directed “Skate for Life” which showcased Olympic and National Champion Figure Skaters, Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” Dancers and more. “Skate for Life” helped to raise over $46,000 for Muscular Dystrophy in those 2 shows!
His new show tour, “Skate Dance Dream” will inspire our Human Family by giving kids the chance to dream big through performing with and learning from their heroes. Add to this that Parker was a member of the National Honor Society in high school and was one of a handful of selected recipients across the nation to be honored in the prestigious Scholastic Honors Team by U.S. Figure Skating… now you have the complete Renaissance Man!

~ 2013 “Unsung Hero”: Bonnie Conn-Oster ~ A Tribute to One of World’s Most Heroic Mothers, Dr. Craig Oster’s Mother!

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My name is Dr Craig Oster and I am writing this Living Tribute to My Mother, Bonnie Conn-Oster, a dedicated and humble Mother of three, who has taken heroic and courageous efforts which have helped me survive and thrive 19 years after being given the death sentence diagnosis of ALS. My Mother is a powerful example of one of the most important kinds of Unsung Heroes in the world—the Altruistic Mother. For years, I watched my Mother work about 60 hours every week in significant pain as a waitress while care-giving and helping me for over another 30 hours each week. She made the survival of her son to be her chief mission, as she would have done for any of her children. Before my illness, my Mother showed the same dedication with her Mother who was dying of cancer for several years.

However, like her own mother, my Mother eventually developed aggressive stage 4 cancer which was crushing her heart, throat, and spine… The doctors said that her survival was impossible. I had my adviser, the legendary Dr Bernie Siegel, call and speak with my Mother when she was more stable. And to make a long story short, my Mother has been cancer free for about a half a year! Bonnie was made the cancer survivor spokesperson for our local hospital!

When I was told that I was chosen to be one of the “Unsung Heroes” to be honored at the People of Distinction Humanitarian Awards, I wrote Al Cole, the Executive  Director of the Awards, a passionate letter stating that I didn’t feel right about accepting the award without my Mother being a joint awardee. I sobbed as I wrote the letter, because my Mother is the True Unsung Hero, not me. I’ll be forever grateful to Al Cole that he has enthusiastically allowed my Mother to be a People of Distinction Humanitarian Awards “Unsung Hero” too!