Happy Valley Heroes
Take a few moments and imagine what the world would be like if there were no heroes. Our lives would be so much poorer. It’s doubtful the United States would even exist. Our history has had heroes since Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Robert Morris and others signed the Declaration of Independence. Every soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War was a hero including George Washington and those 12,000 men who stayed in Valley Forge during the bitter winter of 1778. And down through the past 200 years, our nation has had many heroes; some well known, but many just ordinary citizens.
So, where are the heroes of today? They are all around us. They are the grandfather or the “old man” down the street who served in WWII. They are the men and women who served in Korea, Vietnam and other battles in which we have fought. They are the firemen, doctors and nurses who work protecting and healing us. A hero can be the volunteer fireman who gives up his Friday night to risk his life and save your home or the teachers, coaches and others who help our children. Your neighbor who brings soup to you when you are sick or clears your sidewalk after a heavy winter snow is a hero. The young boy or girl who gives up their time to visit the nursing home, clear a stream or help the homeless are heroes. Our heroes are ordinary citizens who see something that needs done and do it simply because it needs done and they are there. As you can tell, a hero can be almost any one of any age who goes “above and beyond” to help others.
With this perspective, as you look around, you can see that our community is rich with heroes. And, we want to recognize them. With your help, we can do this and show our appreciation to those who have helped to make Central Pennsylvania a better place for you and for all of us. Though heroes rarely want credit or even recognition, we think its important to say “thank you” to them and want to take this opportunity to offer them our appreciation and let the community learn more about the character and the actions of those we call “hero”. This is the basis of the “Heroes” Program.
Independence Day Parade
The annual Independence Day Parade is a key component in the full day of family-friendly fun celebrating our nation’s birth. Taking place on July 4 and starting in front of the State College Municipal Building, the parade route travels through downtown State College, across the PSU campus, and ends at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Independence Day Parade celebrates our community and its people, including emergency services, community groups, the arts, and more. It’s also used as a platform to thank and recognize the heroes of Central Pennsylvania. The heroes selected to participate in the parade each receive a commemorative plaque and are transported along the parade route with their name and town highlighted on banners. Nominees not selected to be in the parade receive honorable mentions and a certificate thanking them for their service to their community and country.
Freedom Bell Ringing
The start of the Independence Day Parade coincides with the ringing of bells. Across the nation, community churches are being encouraged to ring their bells on July 4th to help remind people that this is a day to commemorate and remember the blessings we enjoy here in America. Although the origin of this tradition is difficult to establish, it may go back to the ringing of church bells in Boston to alert people to the British advance, or to the inscription on the Liberty Bell. The inscription is from Leviticus 25:10 and reads, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Along this line, on July 4th, we are asking the State College area churches to ring their bells at 2:00 PM. We hope you join us in letting freedom ring this holiday!
Happy Valley Heroes
- Bella Bregar – For almost four decades, Bella has worked in the State College School District as an advocate, mentor and teacher for students with learning disabilities. She also helps manages Special Olympics Centre County where she organizes and sets up athletic competitions and events
- June Brown – June Brown has worked 57 years teaching art with Centre Region Park and Rec’s summer day camp program. In addition, Mrs. Brown volunteers for Community Special Events, Kids on Wheels Parade, the Peanut Carnival Chair and has 40+ years volunteering with the Girl Scout program in State College.
- Dino Campanis – Dino served in the military and, as a cobbler, started “Operation Shoebox” to send our military troops serving overseas supplies much needed personal supplies. He collected, organized and sent these “Care Packages” from his shoe store in Bellefonte, PA fo years.
- Dave Effinger – Dave is a member of the U.S. Army Reserves and was deployed to active military service in March 2011. Leaving his new wife and career behind, he deployed to Afghanistan to ensure his unit’s ability to communicate, transport, and remain supplied remained intact.
- Dorian Franklin – In 2012, on her 10th birthday, Dorian made a donation of a 12 inch ponytail to Wigs for Kids. Her first donation was at age 7 to Locks of Love. Dorian plans to continue donating with every future haircut.
- Will Kibby – At a young age, Will was drafted as a private in World War II and worked his way up to Major in the US Army where he commanded a battalion in Europe. After that, Will went to work for the YMCA and helped the YMCA in Kansas City, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Jose, Las Vegas and eventually here in State College where he stabilized finances and helped start fund raising efforts for a building.
- Joe Lundberg – Joe organizes and leads weekly bike rides here in State College throughout the spring, summer and fall, with one goal – to get folks together who love to ride. He patiently encourages beginner riders to develop skills, fitness and passion for the sport.
- Brian May – Bryon partnered with the State College Community Land Trust (SCCLT) and helps others realize their American dream by counseling and mentors hem on financial matters as a member of SCCLT’s Finance Committee and help them acquire credit to qualify for home loans.
- Bob McCool – Bob was Commander of the State College Son’s of the American Legion where he organized events like breakfasts and the annual hog roast to raise money for the VA hospital bingos, trips, and dinners and helps every year with the Special Olympics.
- Daria Oller and Alison Krajewski – Just after noon on an April day, Daria and Alison ran to Recreation Hall and a man who had suffered a complete cardiac arrest. They started CPR and stayed with the man until he could be taken to the hospital where he recovered.
- Judy Pleskonko – Judy save the life of a victim who was choking using the Heimlich maneuver. She is also the Chief Deputy Coroner for Centre County and a nurse in the Emergency Department at Mount Nittany Medical Center.
- Gary Seymour – Gary is a Vietnam veteran with health issues who won’t slow him and actively works with the Black Eagle Bowman Archery Club as a board member. He donates his time helping young members with their shooting skills.
- Deb Warner and Jenn Spence – These volunteers with Pets Come First help rescue unwanted animals. These ladies, along with other volunteers, run the “no kill” shelter to and provide a life line for abandoned pets.
- Thomas Winkler – Thomas Winkler is a volunteer EMT for Centre Lifelink EMS in State College and one of the Volunteer EMT’s of the Year for his 979 hours of his time on weekends and nights That year, Tom ran 238 ambulance calls including emergencies, serious motor vehicle accidents and countless alcohol overdoses.
- American Red Cross Volunteers – These volunteers respond 24/7 to go local disasters and provide disaster relief services to families who were displaced because of fire, flood or other disaster. These people also traveled to help victims in Missouri, North Carolina, New York, and North Dakota.
- SPC John Buchan – American serviceman from State College currently serving as a Fire Support Specialist stationed in Afghanistan.
- Bonnie Dyke – a Bellefonte RN associated with Centre Communities Chapter American Red Cross as a Disaster Services volunteer who has been deployed to Alabama, New Jersey and New York for emergency relief.
- Pat Elliott – a Port Matilda volunteer who organized a concert, silent auction and bake sale to help raise funds for more than 200 displaced mobile home residents.
- Hope Guthoff – State College Area School District student who, along with Dustin Neumann, administered CPR and assisted with the defibrillator to save a man who had suffered a heart attack. Hope also volunteers with the Port Matilda EMS.
- Adam Hartswick – 2009 graduate of State College Area School District who volunteered for the Centre Lifelink EMS before entering the military. While serving in Afghanistan as an EMT, he lost both legs while assisting others who had been wounded by the explosion of an IED.
- Donald R. Hazel Jr. – a State College resident who has served in the U.S. military then served 30 years with the Penn State University Police Department and now works as Deputy Sheriff to provide security for Centre County employees.
- Paul Mazza – an attorney from State College who founded the Mazza Law Group and South Hills School of Business and Technology and was also one of the founders of the Central Pennsylvania 4th of July, Inc.
- Dustin Neumann – State College Area School District student who, along with Hope Guthoff, administered CPR and assisted with the defibrillator to save a man who had suffered a heart attack. Dustin also volunteers with the Port Matilda EMS.
- Polly Norton – a State College resident who is Class Manager for a local jazzercise class and has “adopted” newcomers and helped raise almost $5,000 for the American Cancer Society through the Phillipsburg Relay for Life.
- Terri Rudy Pontzer – a Bellefonte resident who is President of the Nittany Mountain Biking Association and also helps with conservation activities, Take-a-Kid-Mountain-Biking, Clearwater Conservancy and Special Olympics.
- Charles Poust – a Pine Grove Mills resident who for the past two decades has served as the Disaster Services Leadership Chairman for the Centre Communities Chapter American Red Cross.
- Sgt. Vincent Reynolds – a 2006 Bellefonte Area School District graduate who joined the U.S. Army and was injured in Afghanistan in September 2012 when an IED exploded causing the loss of a foot and much of a leg.
- Lisa Wandel – a Boalsburg resident who organized the Women’s Adventure Club of Centre County, an organization with over 600 members encouraging women hike, bike, kayak and be active and who did volunteer work with Centre Crest, the Sierra Club and more. And, she has helped find a lost hiker on more than one occasion
- Donald Watkins – a State College native who enlisted in the U. S. Navy in World War II and volunteered with the Boy Scouts, Pennsylvania Game Commission, and the Alpha Fire Company as a paramedic and fireman.
- Abigail Boyer – This young girl was diagnosed with malignant melanoma making her only one of a dozen pre-puberty children in the country with it. She receives chemo treatment for adults and is being nominated for the courage and strength she is showing during this ordeal at the age of 8.
- Alpha Fire Company – This group was nominated for their volunteer service to the community. The man who nominated Alpha had a house fire at 2:30 AM on the morning of February 9 of this year … and the fire company arrived within 6 minutes and saved the house. They are courageous and dedicated!
- The Marathoners for Medicine – This group of 19 local men and women ran the 2014 Boston Marathon this year and in past years and have raised $450,000 in the past 12 years for Centre Volunteers in Medicine.
- Michael Herr – “Mike the Mailman” at Penn State is known for his friendly demeanor. Herr has served at Penn State’s University Park post office for years and is a hero to students away from home because he goes out of his way to make them feel at ease for all those years.
- Shirley Karduck – Shirley works at Mount Nittany as a registered nurse. As she drove along Park Avenue on April 22, 2014, she noticed a vehicle down off the side of the road across from the hospital. Even though she was done with work, she stopped and administered first aid saving the driver’s life.
- Steve, Donna and Stacy Newburg – This family stepped in to manage the Village at Special Olympics and organized the Village into a carnival atmosphere with booths, events and activities. Their caring efforts make them heroes to the Special Olympians.
- Ellie Ritzman – This young woman was born via emergency C-section and has meconium aspiration respiratory distress. Although spending much of her life in a wheel chair, she organizes a bake sale each year and has raised more than $40,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network.
- Gene and Donna Weller – This couple has donated their time and enthusiasm above and beyond their call of duty for over the past 25 years being in charge of the county’s Toys for Tots program and making Christmas a happy time that would not otherwise happen.
- Anand Swaminathan – Anand is an EMT with Centre Lifelink EMS who has volunteered over 2,552 hours over the past 4 years. This past calendar year, he volunteered 690 hours which included responding to 208 ambulance calls for the citizens of the Centre Region.
- Dan Rallis – Dan owns and manages “Catering with Style by Dan Rallis” as well as The College Diner in State College. Each Thanksgiving, Dan opens the diner and serves a full-course Thanksgiving dinner to all who come for just fifty cents (50¢). Local groups provide the service to support local families in need. Dan is also co-founder of the Bestwick Foundation which raises funds to help local organizations that offer cancer care.
- Gert Aron – Gert Aron of Boalsburg, was a prime mover in maintaining hiking trails within and near the Centre Region. His specialty in this effort was the designing and construction of the wooden bridges needed on these trails. Now in his 80’s, he has turned to designing and constructing ramps for individuals with mobility problems.
- Kirsty Lloyd and Jeff Banks – Kirsty Lloyd and Jeff Banks together saved the life of a rider suffering cardiac arrest during the Rothrock TrailMix mountain bike event.
- Shirley Fonda – Shirley Shirley Fonda is the founder of a cat rescue organization called Fonda’s Foundlings. Beginning prior to 1970 as a wildlife rehabilitator, taking in injured and orphaned wildlife, Shirley has cared for and adopted more than 1,600 cats to good homes.
- Steve Greer – Steve is recognized for his work raising money for the fight against cancer, as a founding member of Coaches Vs. Cancer in State College, and as co-founder of Bestwick Foundation, which since its inception in 2011, has donated more than $200,000 to Centre region organizations.
- Patrick Boab – Patrick Boab graduated from Penn State in 1958 and was immediately commissioned in the Air Force. Mr. Boab became a Commander in the Strategic Air Command and flew 3 deployments in Vietnam through 1968. In civilian life, Patrick flew commercial airlines until his retirement in 1996. Between his military and civilian careers, Patrick Boab has logged in excess of 28,000 hours of flight time.
- Virginia Poorman – Known to her friends as GINNY, Ms. Poorman has spent the past nine years focusing attention on the Homeless in Centre County. Ginny’s work and dedication led to the formation of Hearts for the Homeless, a Centre County non-profit organization. Hearts for the Homeless provide assistance with resume development, job search assistance, job interviewing skills, clothing needs, transportation to and from medical appointments and transitional housing for up to 40 clients every month.
- Christopher Hawn – Christopher Hawn served in the United States Army for six years. Christopher is back in civilian life now, attending Penn State Altoona for a degree in marketing and management. Chris works with other veterans as they leave the armed services and adjust back into civilian life.
- Jerry Helsel – Jerry served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. After serving several tours of duty, Jerry returned to civilian life where he worked as a sheet metal worker until retirement from S.P. McCarl’s in Altoona. In retirement, Mr. Helsel is very active with his granddaughter’s equine business, Keystone Equine Entertainment.
- Donald Boller – Donald Boller. Don was a sergeant in the Air National Guard and was deployed to Germany during the Berlin Crisis of 1960 and 1961. Don is very civic-minded as he is a founding member of the Patton Township Business Association, a Centre LifeLink EMS Board Member, President of the State College Optimist Club, the 1983 Master of the Lodge of the State College Lodge #700 Free and Accepted Masons, and a sponsor of the State College Little League Team. Don received the American Red Cross Community Hero Award in 2008 and the Patton Township Business Association Community Service Award in 2015.
- Boyd Spicher – Boyd retired from the Navy after serving 23 years, achieving the rank of Chief Petty Officer and serving during the hostage crises in Iran and Cuba, three tours of duty in Beirut, and Operation Desert Shield. Currently Boyd serves as the instructor for all volunteer tax preparers at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, an IRS program that assists military personnel with free tax preparation services. Boyd also serves veterans of Centre County as a driver for the Centre County Veterans Affairs Office.
- Mel Curtis – Mel Curtis is the director of the Moshannan Valley YMCA. Mel’s belief and mission is to make sure every child that is hungry, gets fed. In 2004 Mel started the free summer lunch program for youth in Phillipsburg. In 2014 he started the backpack program and in 2015 expanded the program into Bellefonte, serving Bald Eagle, Bellefonte, and Penns Valley School Districts. The summer lunch program feeds 500 children in the Phillipsburg area and the backpack program feeds nearly 700 students.
- Isaac Messner – Isaac Messner, is a senior at State College Area High School. Isaac was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2014. He made an arrangement with the Make a Wish Foundation of Pennsylvania and West Virginia to provide new uniforms for the State College High Track and Field Team, of which he was a member. Isaac demonstrates true selflessness as he gave his wish to his teammates. Isaac is an Eagle Scout.
- Ernest Harpster – Ernest Harpster served in the US Army Reserves from 1956 to 1998. He is certified with the NRA, 4H and Fire Arms Institute as an instructor on the use, safety and procedures of fire arms. Ernie spearheaded the raising of community funds to design, build, and dedicate a military monument recognizing all veterans from the Civil War to present and future who were from the western portion of Ferguson Township. The Veteran’s Memorial was dedicated in 2009.
- Adam Salyards – State College Borough Police Officer and Community Relations & Crime Prevention Specialist, Serves on board of Hearts for Homeless and was nominated for his kindness and patience in working with those who are in need.
- Jack Mulfinger – Nominated by the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, Jack volunteered more than 2700 hours in 2016 alone, Spends time working with American Red Cross Disaster Services, Toys for Tots, and 4thFest Security Team.
- Robyn Graboski – Founder of Centre Wildlife Care, a 15-acre wildlife rescue center that cares for all native species including mammals, birds, and reptiles. Teaches classes as a member of the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and supervises the care of about 1600 rescues each year.
- Joseph Januszkiewicz – WWII Veteran – serving in the U.S. Army’s 95th Infantry Division and earned the Infantry Combat Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Eastern Theatre Offensive campaign medal with four Bronze Stars, French Liberation Medal. Graduated from Penn State with a degree in engineering and went on to earn a law degree from Dickinson School of Law. Wrote “The Battles of George S. Patton’s Lowest Ranks”.
- Mayor Bill Welch, Jr. – Nominated Posthumously as a writer, scholar, humanitarian, philanthropist, political leader, and quipster. Bill Welch served four consecutive terms as State College Borough Mayor. Bill was also an officer at the Mount Nittany Conservancy and President of the College Heights Neighborhood Association. Mayor Welch was also Executive Vice President of the Central Pennsylvania July 4th, Inc.
- Rick Hall – Coaching young men and women in the community for over 34 years. Among his coaching accomplishments include State College Little League, State College Scrappers Softball Program, Youth and Adult Legion Baseball, Penn State Women’s Asst. Basketball Coach, Penn State Baseball Club volunteer coach, State College Varsity Football, Head Varsity Softball, and Varsity Baseball Coach.