Red Cross in Minnesota – Celebrating Our 2020 Heroes Awards Recipients

Each year in Minnesota, the American Red Cross celebrates everyday people who perform extraordinary acts of compassion in local communities. The actions of these Heroes demonstrate the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering. This year our Heroes are being recognized with a virtual celebration because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Presented by US Bank, the annual Heroes Awards celebrate Heroes in six categories including: Community Hero, Give Life Hero, First Responder Hero, Good Samaritan Hero, Military Hero and Youth Hero.

Congratulations to our 2020 Heroes Awards honorees!

Here are their outstanding stories.

2020 Military Hero – Sergeant First Class Raul Muñiz

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Raul Muñiz

The American Red Cross Military Hero Award is presented to an active, reserve or retired member of the Armed Forces or ROTC or civilian that has made a significant impact on the military community.

Buffalo resident and Active Guard Reserve Soldier, Raul Muñiz organizes an annual Veterans Day Program at the Waters Church in Sartell, Minnesota, which has generated over 600 participants in the last 2 years. Raul brought in almost 20 community partners to his event including American Legions, Vet Centers, Homeless Resources, and therapy animals. This event is an amazing way to provide resources for veterans and their families while also honoring them for the service they’ve given to our country.

“Raul shows great dedication and commitment to the veterans in our community,” says nominator Anthony Poff.

2020 Good Samaritan Hero – Adventor Trye

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Adventor Trye

Sponsored by CenterPoint Energy, the American Red Cross Good Samaritan Hero Award is presented to an individual(s) who displayed courage and compassion upon encountering an unusual, significant or unexpected incident.

Early this June a devastating electrical fire broke out at a group home in New Hope, Minnesota. Adventor Trye, a direct care worker at the home, was doing laundry in the basement when he saw smoke coming from the garage. He ran upstairs and helped resident Ken Mundale to safely exit the building. Adventor then heroically ran back into the burning building to ensure that there were no other residents still inside the home.

“Adventor jumped into action at work, courageously putting aside his own safety to help the individual in his care,” says nominator Cyndi Lesher. “He’s a model citizen in our community.”

Adventor immigrated to the U.S. 20 years ago from Liberia. Alongside his work as a care provider, Adventor is working towards a university degree in Theology. Adventor shows commitment and compassion to those he works with not just during an emergency, but every day he comes to the job.

2020 Give Life Hero – John Schenk

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John Schenk

Sponsored by Ceridian Corporation, the American Red Cross Give Life Hero Award is presented to an individual whose commitment to blood and platelet donation played a significant role in ensuring the health of patients in our local communities and throughout the country.

St. Cloud, Minnesota resident John Schenk has been donating blood through the Red Cross for 50 years and recently reached his 35-gallon milestone. He started donating in college at the age of 18 and hasn’t stopped since. John has donated whole blood more times than anyone else in the state of Minnesota. With 280 donations over the past 50 years, John has consistently donated approximately every 66 days. That is amazing dedication to saving lives in his community.

“John’s dedication to the Red Cross blood program is outstanding,” says nominator Sue Thesenga. “He’s a hero who hopes to inspire the younger generation to save lives through giving blood.”

2020 Community Heroes – Dina Colville and Alan Haus

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Dina Colville and Alan Haus

Sponsored by Eide Bailly LLP, the American Red Cross Community Hero Award is presented to individuals who display leadership and commitment to their community by making a positive and significant impact.

On December 5, 2019, a routine test flight of a National Guard helicopter took a turn for the worst and a fatal crash ensued near the small town of Marty, Minnesota. Local residents Dina Colville and Alan Haus organized a community response to assist first responders and military personnel as a search for the helicopter was underway. Within hours, Dina and Alan had set up food and supplies in a local school. The community worked alongside the Red Cross for five days, cooking warm meals, offering condolences, and transforming the school into a refuge for military, first responders, and law enforcement on the scene. Dina and Alan dropped everything to bring the community together and support the effort in whatever way they could.

“I watched supplies pour into the school from peoples’ personal freezers, cupboards, and wallets without question,” says nominator Jacklin Steege. “The time, emotion, and dedication they put into their efforts, went above and beyond what I’ve seen at any disaster before.”

2020 Youth Hero: Sanya Pirani

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Sanya Pirani

Sponsored by Medica Foundation, the American Red Cross Youth Hero Award is presented to an outstanding young person who displayed courage and compassion upon encountering an unusual, significant or unexpected incident. This could be a onetime incident or involvement in an on-going commitment to the community through an act/s of kindness, courage, or selflessness.  

Sanya displays ongoing dedication to her community and the world through her nonprofit called Sanya’s Hope for Children. Sanya founded Sanya’s Hope for Children in 2017 with the mission to help children with the basic necessities of life, fund educational endeavors, and make an impact on vital community issues. Sanya has organized many successful projects and fundraisers to provide for both her local community and children worldwide.

“Education is the only way out of poverty,” says Sanya. “I’m on a mission to make sure every child has access to basic life necessities and a quality education.”

2020 First Responder Heroes: Tyler Sowka, Jim Penberthy, Joe Nielsen, Margaret Morin, Andrew Haider, Rick Lonetti, Nate Van Heel, Becky Nilius, Martha Tack, Petrea Miketey, Skylar Stevenson, Ron Hansen, & Steve Hacken

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Sponsored by Abbott, the American Red Cross First Responder Hero Award is presented to an individual(s) or group of the public service community (for example: EMS, firefighter, or law enforcement officer) who went above and beyond the call of duty.

Dave Keiser suffered a heart attack on the golf course in Rush City, Minnesota, the night before his 41st wedding anniversary. Dave’s ‘widowmaker’ artery was 100% blocked and he was moments away from death. A nearby golfer named Tyler Sowka, an Airforce Serviceman from North Branch, stepped in immediately and performed CPR, saving Dave’s life. In less than one hour, Dave went from golfing in Rush City to being wheeled into an operating room at the University of Minnesota. The work of Tyler and local first responders ensured that Dave survived his heart attack and could live to tell his story.

“If Tyler would not have stepped up to perform CPR, Dave would not have survived,” says Dave’s cardiologist. “Dave’s life was saved by immediate and proper CPR being administered.”

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