Lee’s Summit CARES recognized community members for making Lee’s Summit a better place at the annual Mayor’s Character Breakfast Thursday.
The event was attended by 560 people, including several students. Speaker Dan Meers, the Kansas City Chiefs mascot “KC Wolf,” shared an inspirational story of recovering from a terrible accident while performing at Arrowhead Stadium. In 2013, an aerial stunt involving a bungee jump left him with seven broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a fractured vertebrate. He spent nine days in the hospital stay and had an extended recovery.Meers said he could easily have been killed as a result of dropping 75 feet, instead of being stopped at 20 feet by the bungee.
“I knocked two seats out of concrete,” said Meers, adding that he still lives with pain. “The fact I can stand up right now is nothing short of a miracle.”
He compared a day, or a life, to a coin.
“You only get to spend it one time, so spend it wisely,” Meers said. “Take every day you’re given and make this world a better place….Whatever you do, do not take this life for granted.”
Meers, who lives in the Lee’s Summit area, said his family, friends and faith as a Christian helped him meet challenges.
David Carlson and Rachel Segobia, director of Lee’s Summit CARES, announced the Reflection of Character Awards. The following honorees were announced at the breakfast:
Ethics Award: Great Southern Bank
When Joplin was hit by a tornado in 2011 and flooding hit Iowa the following year, Great Southern Bank responded with volunteers, donations and low-rate loans to help the communities get back on their feet.
Other nominees were Weed Man, Cartridge World Lee’s Summit, Flooring and More.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Roby Little
Little, a lifelong resident, retired last year as director of Lee’s Summit CARES.
After graduating from college, Little returned home to became a teacher in the Lee’s Summit School District. She touched the lives of nearly 7,000 students in 27 years of teaching at Pleasant Lea Junior High. In 2001, she retired from teaching and became director of Lee’s Summit CARES.
When Little was hired, Lee’s Summit CARES provided two programs in the community: Alcohol Retailer Training and Love and Logic Parenting Classes. New programs developed, and the coalition grew from one staff member and a $30,000 budget to three staff members, three consultants and a $300,000 budget.
Cooperation: Kevin Holman and Lee’s Summit High School Staff
During homecoming week at Lee’s Summit High School, students were excited for their classmate, Sighris Sharber, who was nominated for homecoming king. Sighris, who is autistic, holds a special place in the hearts of classmates.
Staff members at Lee’s Summit High School were determined to give Sighris a night to remember. Campus supervisor Kevin Holman coordinated the events, making sure Sighris had an escort, corsage, boutonniere and candy to throw in the parade. Counselor Connie Ficken provided her car for the parade. Teacher Susan Mosier secured professional photographers to capture the festivities. Nurse Helen Enright, paraprofessional Joanie Ho and many others provided additional funding.
Compassion: Charity Hathcock
When a special-needs student at Lee’s Summit North High School was looking for a place to sit at lunch, Hathcock smiled and cleared a spot. On a daily basis, Charity engaged her new friend in conversation, listened attentively and offered advice or comfort. Thanks to Charity, the student has found a place where she feels welcome and comfortable. Charity’s kindness has rubbed off onto some of the other students who sit at table.
Generosity: Kyoshi Linda Hanson
For the past three years, Hanson has provided free karate lessons to students in wheelchairs. She believes it is important for all individuals, regardless of physical abilities, to be active in their community.
This year, Hanson hosted a demonstration lesson and yellow-belt graduation ceremony. During the event, Hanson worked to show family members the potential their children have in spite of their physical challenges. Students showed off their coordination, flexibility and strength, as well as their perseverance and self-control.
Family: Terry White
White’s enthusiasm has inspired his neighborhood. He checks on his neighbors daily and maintains a Facebook page to keep the neighborhood informed of upcoming events and calls for prayers.
He also provides neighbors with such events as a 75-foot marathon, which starts at his driveway and ends at the neighbor’s driveway. The entry fee is a donation to Harvester’s.
An ordained minister, White performs weddings and gives eulogies for the neighbors he loves. If someone is sick, he brings them food and offers companionship. He’s even been known to show up at a hospital bed. White also is known for finding bicycles that needs a little TLC, fixing them up and giving them to children in need.
Appreciation: Amy Johnson
In March 2011, Johnson had a moment of inspiration while putting on her makeup. She thought, “What if women could get noticed just for being themselves, no strings attached?”
Johnson was aware that many women can feel insignificant. Soon after, the Noticed Network was born. She made a list of 250 women she felt deserved to be noticed. She designed a charm that said “Noticed” and began to “notice” the women on her list by personally sharing the good she saw in these women and presenting them with the charm.
Other women took interest, and what Johnson calls the “ripples of goodness” began to spread throughout Lee’s Summit and across the nation.
The Noticed Network now includes a charitable foundation, speaker programs and a product line, as well as a website.
Respect: Randy Buffington
Buffington has been a worship leader and director of the Youth Choir at the First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit for 22 years. He exhibits kindness, models respect and is dedicated to the youth in the community. Last summer, Buffington, along with a youth minister and several adults, took 39 teenagers to minister in the Dallas area, leading vacation Bible school for more than 100 inner-city children and renovating a halfway house for people getting out of prison.After the youth sang at a homeless shelter, they served the food and enjoyed a meal with everyone there.
Courage: Brian Galvez
Last year, Brian, a kindergarten student at Highland Park Elementary, was diagnosed with leukemia. Brian’s treatment has required multiple rounds of chemotherapy and overnight stays at the hospital. Chemotherapy causes him to be sick and experience loss of strength and motor movement. While he’s missed a lot of school and social activities, Brian always has a smile to share. Because of his positive outlook, he is an inspiration to everyone who meets him. Recently, Highland Park staff and students wanted to do something special for him. Sixth-graders held a rally to collect donations and sold orange bracelets that said “Go BIG for Brian,” raising more than $4,000 to help the family.
Perseverance: Kelly Manz
Manz is a champion for babies born with congenital heart defects (CHD). In 2008, her first daughter, Chloe, was born with a CHD. The next year, Manz started her fight to pass Chloe’s Law, a bill submitted to the Missouri legislature that changed newborn screening requirements, so infants are tested before leaving the hospital. Gov. Jay Nixon signed Chloe’s Law and it went into effect on Jan. 2014.
Manz also runs races to promote CHD awareness and has formed her own race at Unity Village to honor CHD families.
Kindness: Willard Parks
School bus driver Parks, affectionately known to the students and staff at Hazel Grove Elementary as Big Will, is a true example of the word “kindness.” His positive attitude, caring heart and respect for others sets an example for both students and adults alike. Students who get on his bus know they are safe and loved.
Many of the students at Hazel Grove do not have a male role model in their lives and look to Parks to fill that role. Fifth-grade student Yasir Winston describes Parks as the “best bus driver in the world.”
Yasir shares: “If I am ever feeling down, all I have to do is get on the bus and it makes my day a whole lot better. [Big Will] never lets me get off the bus without talking to him. Every once in awhile, he comes to my football games. I don’t know many bus drivers who would do that.”
Citizenship: Trevor Allen and Tyler Butler
Trevor and Tyler, Lee’s Summit West High students, saw a gap in volunteers needed for an annual charity bicycle ride called Crank Out Hunger, which supports Coldwater’s food pantry.
This year, the night before the event, Crank Out Hunger still had numerous empty volunteer slots.
The teens were driving around town the day before the event and saw signs calling for volunteers. They went online, noticed all the open volunteer slots, and signed up for every available slot during the long day.
They started shortly after 5 a.m. and took on tasks such as directing cars, supporting riders along the route, and changing trash bins. They continued to work tirelessly for hours, completing every task assigned to them.
Responsibility: Jackie Ernst
A few years ago, Ernst’s son, Damien, was killed in an altercation while living in a homeless camp in San Bernadino, Calif.
After moving to Lee’s Summit from California in 2013, Ernst teamed up with a friend to organize collections to take to the homeless population around Kansas City and Leavenworth.
Their first event was “Backpacks for The Homeless” at Christmastime in 2014. They distributed 42 backpacks full of clothing, food and toiletries. During the past year, Backpacks for the Homeless has organized several distributions around holidays like Valentine’s Day and Easter.