They've made our streets safer, comforted children in times of need and saved the lives of their neighbors. Ten 2014 Heroes of the Heartland were honored by the Red Cross Wednesday morning in La Vista.
More than 600 people gathered to celebrate the extraordinary acts of selflessness at the 14th annual Heroes of the Heartland ceremony, including a mother who carried a neighbor out of a burning building, a community activist, a local sheriff and a Nebraska Furniture Mart employee who helped parents navigate the medical world when their children are sick.
It shows a hero can be anyone and the Red Cross hopes that inspires each of us to step up, even in the smallest of ways. “It just takes you being able to say, you know what, I want to make a difference in my community,” said Liz Dorland of the Red Cross. “I want to become Red Cross ready, take that next step, be prepared for a disaster, be prepared for an emergency if it should it happen to me. I want to know what to do if I need to help somebody."
Here are six ways to be an everyday hero. Create a disaster preparedness plan, get CPR/first aid training, donate blood, become a digital advocate, give financially or volunteer. The Red Cross says it relies on volunteers for 94 percent of the humanitarian work they're able to do.
"When there's this whole group of people that kind of chip in to help you out, strangers, people you've never met, people you'll probably never meet again, sort of makes you want to do things for other people, so if I see somebody that can use a helping hand I'll be pretty quick to reach a hand out and do what I can do or do what I know how to do anyway,” said Heroes of the Heartland Good Samaritan winner Scott Baker.
In addition, 750 students from fifth-grade to eighth-grade submitted essays on their personal heroes, stories about those who inspired them. Eight winners emerged, six students from Omaha, one from Bellevue and one from Harlan, Iowa.
A student from St. Mary's found her hero at home. "If a hero is someone who shows great courage and puts others before himself, then my dad is the man you're looking for,” wrote Jenna Bellmyer.
Another student described the woman she wishes to be, her grandmother. "She had to be displaced from southern to northern Sudan where life was anything but easy. She overcame it and raised two daughters to be noble, strong women just like her."
Other students describe their mentors and gaining a sense of self-confidence through these adults who invested their time in them.
WOWT 6 News’ John Chapman is sharing the stories of all 10 Heroes of the Heartland for 2014. You can find those stories on wowt.com. Two more of his features will air this week during the 6 p.m. news.