St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Honors Tampa Bay’s Youngest Heroes
At a special pre-game celebration, the Kids are Heroes nominees received certificates, medals of honor and superhero capes. They also enjoyed time with Tampa Bay Storm players, cheerleaders and team mascots Storm Dawg and ThunderBug.
The young heroes and their families stayed to watch the War on I-4, the biggest rivalry game in sunshine state arena football in which the Tampa Bay Storm take on the Orlando Predators. During halftime, all nominees ran onto the field where the Top SuperHeroes were each presented with a Kids Are Heroes trophy.
"It is with great pride that our hospital, designed exclusively for kids, recognizes the contributions young people make to benefit the world in which they live," said St. Joseph's Children's Hospital President Kimberly Guy.
Former Tampa Bay Lightning Team Captain Dave Andreychuk and ThunderBug helped St. Joseph's Children's Hospital patients select this year's Kids Are Heroes winners during a special judging event held at the hospital earlier this year.
Since 1996, more than 1,800 children between the ages 5 and 18 have been recognized through St. Joseph's Children's Hospital's Kids Are Heroes program.
You can view photos from the Kids are Heroes event and learn more about St. Joseph's Children's Hospital at Facebook.com/StJosephsChildrens.
Winners in the 5 – 8 Year Old Category
Will Andrade, Lutz, FL
Will amazes all who know him with his selfless acts and is happiest when he is doing things for others. For four of his past six birthdays, he has asked people to donate to charity instead of buying him presents. When he was too young to understand the concept, his parents picked a charity each year and asked family and friends to consider this request. By his fifth and sixth birthdays, he was old enough to fully understand what he was asking for and enjoyed the idea of giving to children in need. For his fifth birthday, Will donated LEGO sets to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital. The following year, he asked for monetary donations so he could purchase books for children waiting in the emergency room (ER). Will remembers that having something to do took his mind off the pain and fear when he was in the ER. Although he's not able to deliver the gifts in person and see firsthand the impact the donations make, at his age this hero understands that he is making a difference.
Caroline Jones, Riverview, FL
When Caroline's mother was sick with an upper respiratory infection and suffered an allergic reaction to medication that left her unresponsive, this hero jumped into action and used an iPhone to FaceTime her grandparents in Naples. Her grandfather called 911, and Caroline let the paramedics inside their home. Her quick thinking helped save her mother's life.
Sydney Young, Palm Harbor, FL
Sydney is an extraordinary girl who is always looking for ways to be involved and help her school and her community. For her last birthday, Sydney and her sister, Peyton, had an "un-birthday" party. Instead of receiving gifts and spending money on goodie bags, Sydney asked guests to bring donations for the Suncoast Animal Shelter located in Palm Harbor. The party invitations included a list of items that the animal shelter needed most, and together Sydney and her party guests were able to donate 78 pounds of dry dog food, 32 pounds of dry cat food, 31 cans of food, as well as treats, toys, cat litter, gas cards and office supplies. Not only is she a hero to Suncoast Animal Shelter, her family considers her extraordinary for choosing to ask for donations instead of birthday gifts.
Winners in the 9 – 12 Year Old Category
Emma Buscerni, Brooksville, FL
This hero loves volunteering and serving her community. Inspired by her papa, who is a veteran, Emma lays wreaths and plants American flags at the Bushnell National Cemetery on Memorial Day every year. She even became an official "star maker" with the Stars for Our Troops program. Emma volunteers at local animal shelters and makes blankets so that the dogs at the Humane Society would have something warm to lie on. Every year, she uses her birthday money to buy the animals new toys, so they have something to play with on Christmas. As the K-Kids president, Emma organized many projects and helped make homemade blankets for animals at the shelter. The group also made cards for veterans and blankets for chemotherapy patients. She is on the SWAT team at school and has been asked to be a SWAT representative for Hernando County. Emma also skipped a grade in school and still maintains straight As.
Madelyn McKinney, Lithia, FL
Madelyn is a hero because of her caring, generous heart. After learning about citizenship in class, Madelyn decided that she would like to do something to help others and organized a coat drive to help families this winter. She set up boxes in both of her classes and at three other businesses to involve the community. The first couple of weeks were tough for Madelyn. She was a little discouraged when very little was donated, but that didn't stop her. Madelyn kept her spirits up saying "next week will be better." Her patience and determination paid off. All together she collected 212 coats, a few blankets, mittens, gloves and hats. Madelyn wanted to make a difference in the lives of so many with something so little and she accomplished that. Her act of kindness will help many families this year.
Michael Solava, Largo, FL
When Mike learned about children who don't have basic necessities like shoes, he set out on a year-long mission to collect 25,000 pairs of shoes for children in Africa. Though he fell shy of that goal and only collected approximately 7,500 shoes, this hero learned a lot through the process. Mike worked long hours sorting and processing shoes after soccer practice. He also overcame extreme shyness and nervousness about talking to strangers by asking businesses to allow him to put a donation box at their location. Mike's generosity also inspired others to pay it forward. He has shown a true spirit of heroism with his humility and generosity.
Carlie Wilson, Dover, FL
Though Carlie was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma and missed most of third grade, she managed to keep her grades up and make the Principal's Honor Roll. Carlie spent days at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital receiving chemotherapy and lost all of her hair. Despite her illness, Carlie remained positive, keeping her grades up and being a rock for her family during this difficult time. Carlie never lost hope that she would come out on top and overcome her nasty fight with cancer, and that's exactly what she did. Today, Carlie is back in school and doing fabulous. She recently was on the Principal's Honor Roll again. Carlie is also a safety patrol, which is just another way she shows her heroism. She always puts others before herself, and is a true hero.
Winners in the 13 – 18 Year Old Category
Antonia "Noni" Gurley, Tampa, FL
Noni is an inspiration to many. Due to her chronic health issues, she can't attend school but was the honoree for CHS Drives golf tournament. Despite Noni's condition, she always has a positive attitude and constantly puts her best foot forward. When she helped plan an event to raise money for the Child Life Department at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, Noni was in a lot of pain, but she pushed forward because it meant a lot to her to help the hospital where she spends a good portion of her time. Noni met with every single person in attendance and took more than 100 photos. CHS Drives and Noni raised more than $11,000! The founders of CHS Drives have decided to host an annual fund-raiser benefitting Child Life because of Noni. Thousands of children will benefit from the funds collected because of Noni's kind and generous heart. She is always kind, gentle and encouraging to others. No matter how bad she feels, Noni always tries to make those around her feel special. Her smile lights up a room and her kindness lights up your heart.
Valentina Ortiz, Tampa, FL
Valentina is the president of an anti-bullying club at school that is now 80 members strong. Led by Valentina, this club has given presentations for 200 underclassmen, created a student-led support group for victims, trained the staff, filmed an original anti-bullying song put together by a glee club called "The Beats," organized an anti-bullying awareness week as part of the "Black Out Bullying" movement and sent flowers and happy notes to kids who needed cheering up. Many students have thanked the club for helping them get through the day and none of it would have been possible without Valentina.
Bob Schnofner, Tampa, FL
Bob a member of Boy Scout Troop 4. He wanted to do something for children with disabilities for his Eagle Scout project, so Bob remodeled a storage room at United Cerebral Palsy of Tampa Bay Early Childhood Ed Preschool into a sensory room by installing learning tools and sensory items specially designed for special needs children. The room will help teach delayed or disabled children fine and gross motor skills. The sensory activities will promote independence and give children a chance to live full, experience-rich lives. Bob recruited volunteers from Scout troops to help install items last year. To fund the project, he raised more than $2,000 by making handmade beef jerky to sell at local farmers markets and soliciting donations. Bob also received a grant from Lowe's Home Improvement Store. Over the years, he has undergone many operations and therapies to correct his cleft lip and palate. Bob just had his braces removed after eight years and now wears a bridge to cover the cleft. He is also involved with Buddy Baseball, Frameworks Teens in Action and Academy Prep's Scout Troop 100. Bob wants to chart a path of public service —committing to future challenges that bring about positive change. This hero looks forward to attending college and making a difference.
Sara Watts, Dade City, FL
When doctors diagnosed Sara's younger sister, Mattison, with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) at the age of 6, Sara knew she would do anything to help her feel better. After two years of chemotherapy, Mattison needed a bone marrow transplant and Sara was a perfect match. In September 2012, Sara graciously donated her bone marrow to her sister, which ultimately saved her from spending the majority of her life in a wheelchair. Sara missed several weeks of school following the surgery and endured a lot of pain while recovering. However, she still maintained her grades and kept her honors status at school. Sara has also been a huge help to her parents at home by helping out with chores and entertaining her sister, who was in isolation while she recovered from the bone marrow transplant. Sara never complained about the sacrifices she's made for her sister and continues to ensure her sister's health and happiness each day.