Meet our 2021 Hometown Hero Nominees
Honoring the heroic efforts of those in our community.
What is a hero? A hero is described as “a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities.”
A hero can be anyone. Your brother or sister. Your neighbor. A coach. A teacher. A teammate. Even a friend.
This year you helped us find heroic individuals who live with a disability and people who help, support and cheer on those with disabilities.
We selected 15 outstanding nominees who truly showcase what it means to be a hero. These 15 individuals are highlighted in the May edition of the Bismarck Magazine.
You voted for your 6 favorites to be recognized during Larks games this summer. Those winners are:
- Liz and Roxanne Romanick
- Sheila Blotsky
- Judy Bahe
- Sara Bohrer
- Laila Nehls and Haiden Faris
- Libby Wolff
Anne and Bernadette Caro
Anne was gifted with a special little girl who has down syndrome. Some people don’t see people with Down syndrome as a blessing and thinking about that broke my heart. Anne started advocating and spreading awareness because she never realized people were so uninformed until she had Bernadette and we started hearing things like, “oh no, how bad does she have it…”
Anne and Bernadette make rosaries together. Stringing them helps Bernadette enhance her fine motor skills and hand eye coordination and to strengthen her grip and fingers. She sells them for $3.21 to raise awareness and celebrate Trisomy 21. All her rosaries are listed under the “mini maker” section on the Crown of Roses website.
Growing up, Brittany knew she had a passion for two things: animals and helping kids. When she discovered hippotherapy, everything came together for her. Hippotherapy is a kind of therapy that utilizes the movement of the horse to provide sensory input. There was nothing like this in the area, so Brittany opened H.I.P.P. Kids Therapy in June of 2016.
The focus of H.I.P.P is occupational therapy on horses. Most kids come once or twice a week to work on their goals, whether social, emotional, or developmental. As Brittany’s non-profit grew, the other animals on the farm became incorporated into other aspects of therapy as well as including Pixie Lou the pig, Mimi the chicken, Cash the dog, Roland the goat, and Leo the Lionhead rabbit.
Candace is a licensed counselor who helps and encourages her clients who deal with mental health issues all while being blind herself. Candace has never allowed her blindness to restrict her and obtained both her bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of Mary. “I always wanted to go into something in the helping field, but I didn’t really know what,” explains Candace. She now works at Corner Post Counseling where she inspires her clients with her own positivity and perseverance. “Some clients will come in and they’re struggling with anxiety, or depression, or even PTSD,” describes Candace. “They’ll come in, and they don’t know when they make the appointment that I’m blind, and they’re like, ‘woah, how do you do all this stuff and eventually they’re like, well, if you can do all that, then I can get through it.”
Hailey is a light to all who know her. Hailey was born with spina bifida and has persevered through different surgeries and health scares but has not let her struggles dim her positive outlook on life. Hailey walks with two crutches, has braces on her paralyzed feet, and a shunt. She has gone from surviving a coma to thriving. Hailey loves that she can be an inspiration for others, proving people’s expectations wrong. “I met two babies with spina bifida and I was like, I can be a hero for them,” describes Hailey. “I can show them what it’s all about, and I can be a model for them.”
Jennifer and Frankie Crary
Frankie is the brightest light in our world. He loves reading books, playing with cars, and being outside. Toy Story, Monsters, Inc, and Paw Patrol are his jam. He also happens to have Down syndrome.
Jack’s Basket is an organization that is special to them because of the work they do welcoming families who have received a Down syndrome diagnosis for their baby. They felt welcomed into this incredible community and wanted to do the same for other families, so Jennifer became a Basket Delivery Parent.
Jeremiah was born with a serious passion for sports. He is a sports reporter for local teams and covers a myriad of sports on his blog, https://jeremiahboyce.com/. Jeremiah has cerebral palsy and while CP may limit Jeremiah physically, it hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his dreams.
Jeremiah may be non-verbal, but his voice comes through loud and clear in his writing. Through dictation to his father, Jeremiah writes sports articles on teams he is passionate about.
Judy is the manager of Children’s Therapies at Sanford and a physical therapist. Working with children living with disabilities like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida is not just her career. It is her passion. Judy goes above and beyond to serve her patients and has created a friendly and fun environment where they can learn ways to navigate and enjoy life just like anyone else.
Laila and Haiden’s friendship began in kindergarten and continued to grow over the last six years. They have formed an unbreakable bond and despite continual changes. Both girls learn from each other and encourage each other as they grow up together. Laila sees Haiden simply as her friend, helping and supporting her in any way she can, without thinking anything extra of it.
Haiden is a determined and spunky girl who has overcome so many obstacles. Even though speaking is not easy for her, she is always mindful of saying please and thank you
Libby Wolff, who will be celebrating her seventh birthday on May 22nd, has already overcome tremendous obstacles in her life. Libby was born with Schizencephaly, a rare brain abnormality which manifests differently in every person. For Libby, it means severe cerebral palsy, epilepsy, non-verbal communication, chronic respiratory issues, among other things. “She is amazing, and we can’t imagine our world without her. She’s definitely made us do things, think things that we would never have found an avenue to do,” says Kari Wolff, Libby’s mom.
Elizabeth and Roxane Romanick
Elizabeth has Down syndrome, but she has never let this hold her back. Instead, she embraces it and advocates for herself and others with Down syndrome. She advocates by speaking in front of classrooms with Youth Empowering Social Status or YESS. “I just want to be out there showing people who I’m supposed to be and having friends and having fun… I just feel like I can be whatever I want to be.”
Elizabeth’s mother, Roxane, is the executive director of Designer Genes, a non-profit devoted to supporting families and members, from parents who found out their unborn child has Down syndrome until the end of life. “I get really excited about supporting families. That’s what drives me,” says Roxane.
MaryBeth was working at Horizon Middle School when she first met Aaron, who was in sixth grade at the time. Aaron has autism and an intellectual disability along with chronic health problems. Aaron is now 19 years old and MaryBeth has been helping with him through every step of his life. They’ve become like family.
MaryBeth also works at Pride Inc and is a single mother of three kids, ages 14 through 3. “You take it one day at a time. There are good days and bad days, but you need to have a lot of patience and be calm,” says MaryBeth.
Megan Arthaud has dedicated her life to serving individuals with disabilities while also promoting inclusion. Megan started at Enable, a non-profit that helps a wide variety of individuals with disabilities, almost 10 years ago. She started as a direct support staff professional, then a residential supervisor, and is now the program coordinator. Over half of the individuals Megan works with are non-verbal. “I’m basically their voice, their biggest advocate,” says Megan. She is always pushing them to do what they think is impossible, to make them a part of the community, and to use their voices.
Six years ago, Sara created a new class available to high school students. She was inspired by the desire of her students with disabilities to be more connected to their high school. They wanted to go to sporting events, concerts, plays and other activities, but not with a staff member or their parents. This class allows them to go with other students.
“Many students have told me that before this class, it wasn’t that they didn’t want to include their peers with disabilities, they just weren’t sure how to,” explains Sara.
Sarah has worked as a social worker for 30 years and dedicated her life to the service of those in need. Four years ago, she joined Guardian and Protective Services, Inc., or GaPS, as the assistant program director. GaPS is a small non-profit organization that serves the needs of vulnerable adults in the community who need a decision maker. They provide protective services to mentally ill, brain-injured, or disabled adults and vulnerable elderly, who have limited or no family support or no capable friends to assist them. They help find safe living arrangements, aid in health care, manage finances, and so much more.
Sheila Blotsky is a special education teacher at Solheim Elementary who has served as the case manager for children with disabilities and their families for 19 years. Sheila is involved as these students’ educational advocate from their elementary years until they move on to middle school. Not only is Shelia an advocate for her students, but she is also support for their parents as well. “We become family. We go through the thick and the thin together,” expresses Sheila.