Janesville teen among local heroes

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Shelly Birkelo
Tuesday, June 11, 2013

In the past four years, Betsy Ennis has helped raise more than $60,000 to provide scholarships for children affected by cancer.

Among her favorite volunteer efforts is the Ennis Memorial Golf Classic. Named after her father, Steve, who lost his battle with cancer in 2009, the event helps her honor her father while helping children.

"It just gives me a feeling I helped someone," she said.

Ennis will join five other honorees to be recognized during the annual American Red Cross 2013 Real Heroes Celebration on Friday, June 21.

"I was really surprised, but really happy I won it," Betsy said, admitting she didn't know she was nominated and that she'd never even heard of the award.

"Real Heroes recognizes and celebrates the everyday heroes among us—those who display selfless acts of courage or compassion to save or improve the lives of others," said American Red Cross Regional Development Manager Tammy DeGarmo, who works at the organization's Janesville office.

The event honors local heroes who share their stories in hopes of inspiring others to take action, who share the mission and impact of the American Red Cross and who raise funds to support local programs and service delivery, she said.

Last year's Real Heroes raised $25,000, DeGarmo said.

"This is the third year the event is being held in our area and we hope to raise $30,000 to $35,000," she said.

Betsy's godfather, Mike Steinhoff of Janesville, nominated her for the award. Steinhoff noted her devotion to family, friends, people in need and personal excellence.

"Betsy's commitment to excellence, helping others and wanting to see others do well, even strangers, is what makes her an exceptional young lady and so deserving of the recognition she's earned," he wrote in his nomination letter.

Betsy, 16, was just elected president of Craig High School's Amnesty International Club—the school's largest club at 100 members strong. The club takes a stance on human rights, conducts one big project a year and meets monthly.

"The club helped me get into things—big and smaller projects—that help others," she said.

These projects included helping raise $40,000 for Kids Against Hunger.

The program sent 280,000 meals to Haiti and raised $430,000 for the local Bags of Hope holiday food drive that helped 400-plus families and 100 senior citizens in the community.

Helping others is important to Betsy.

"I've been fortunate in my life that I enjoy giving back to people who haven't had it as easy as I have growing up," she said.

Betsy's late father and her mother, Terri Ennis, instilled the philosophy of volunteerism in their daughter.

"What my dad went through motivates me," she said.


-- Adult Good Samaritan: Ken Pulkowski, Beloit—In fall 2012 Pulkowski was on his way to work when he noticed a woman in a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road. When he stopped to help, he realized the woman was trying to resuscitate her husband, who was in cardiac arrest. The couple were on their way to the hospital to get medical care for the man, who was experiencing asthma-related distress. Pulkowski performed CPR until paramedics arrived while one of his passengers called 911. The Rock County Sheriff's Office deputy that arrived on scene said Pulkowski was responsible for keeping the man alive. The man remained in a coma several days before dying. Several of his organs were donated.

-- Hero of a Lifetime: Helen Stowe, Jefferson—Stowe has dedicated her life to helping others as a longtime county social worker and community volunteer. She is a founding member of Rainbow Hospice in Jefferson County, which has named its top annual award—the Helen Stowe Volunteer of the Year Award—after her. Stowe is the local Meals on Wheels coordinator and has coordinated the Jefferson County Christmas Neighbors program and its Adopt-A-Family component for 30 years. The program brings together churches, schools, businesses and individuals to provide toys, food and clothing to hundreds of families and thousands of children each year during the holidays.

-- Corporate Hero: Colony Brands, Monroe—Colony Brands provides financial and volunteer support to local nonprofit organizations. The company donated money to the American Red Cross in 2012 to help buy a disaster response trailer for Green County. Colony Brands also offers programs that encourage home ownership and education opportunities. The company emphasizes health and wellness for employees and their families and recently invested in a new health and wellness center.

-- Health Care Hero: Jackie Friar-LeCaptain, Janesville—This Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center registered nurse advocates for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. In 2008, she helped expand Mercy's emergency room services to include a sexual assault nurse examiner program that provides necessary emergency health services and emotional and mental support for victims. SANE is the only program of its kind in Rock County, and under Friar-LeCaptain's leadership it has built strong partnerships with Rock County law enforcement, the district attorney's office, YWCA Rock County and the Sexual Assault Recovery Program. Friar-LeCaptain also dedicates much of her time to education and prevention of sexual abuse.

Last updated: 7:54 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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