New Hero Finalists: Becky, Orbert, Ed, Tom and Raijean!
By: Stephanie Lewis
June 4, 2012 9:17 am CT
You sent in your stories of the inspirational people making a difference in YOUR communities, and we are excited to announce the newest Our Town, Our Heroes finalists! Becky, Orbert, Ed, Tom and Raijean are all driving positive change in their communities. Now they need your votes to take home the Our Town, Our Heroes title!
Read on for the stories of our five finalists and cast your vote for your favorite hero. Remember, you can vote once per day for your hero, and be sure to spread the word to family and friends! We will post an update on the standings next Monday, June 11, so keep checking back to see if your hero is in the top spot!
Becky Beifuss from Glen Ellyn, nominated by Lora Vitek
Becky Beilfuss has been working for Teen Parent Connection for nearly 30 years. She started as a volunteer and has worked her way up to executive director. The mission of Teen Parent Connection is to serve the community through education about the realities and responsibilities of teenage pregnancy and through long-term assistance to adolescent parents for their development of self-esteem, parenting skills and empowerment toward self-sufficiency. Through hard work, motivation and passion for the cause, Becky has strengthened young families forever, especially teenage parents in DuPage County. Becky, too, was a teenage parent and wants to share her message that young people can move beyond simply being a teenage parent. There is still is a future – a successful future – ahead for these families.
Orbert Davis from Chicago, nominated by Eileen Gormaly
Orbert inspires countless students, musicians and others, not only through his generosity, but also his passion for music. He is a college mentor and has spent his career encouraging and motivating others through his music. Orbert continues to go out of his way to pave greater paths for others, especially those in the fine arts.
Ed Marszewski from Chicago, nominated by Dawn Hancock
Ed has been called the “king of Chicago’s underground art scene,” “the most innovative, conscientious art impresario and provocateur,” and “the mayor of Bridgeport.” Ed is building a community one publication, exhibition and small business at a time. His passion and action for creating community is unparalleled. He has published art and culture magazines for more than 20 years, showcased local and international artists at his gallery and most recently created a new organization called SMALL, which promotes those who make locally-manufactured products. Ed’s entire goal is to create the “community of the future” in his neighborhood of Bridgeport. With every art opening, publication launch and forward-thinking festival, Ed creates opportunities for Chicagoans to discuss, promote and gather together to support one another.
Tom O’Connell from Chicago, nominated by JoAnn Reilly
My brother-in-law Tom has been a Chicago fireman for 30 years and always does his job with great pride. Last year, Tom rescued a young boy from a basement engulfed in flames. When Tom told us this story, he was very concerned about the child’s health because of the extent of his burns and was unsure if he would survive the injuries. Recently, the boy went back to school. His teacher called the fire department and asked if Tom would come to school to meet the boy. The moment Tom entered the classroom, the boy’s face lit up. When asked about his heroism, Tom remained (and continued to remain) humble, making sure the other firemen were recognized. Tom has always been a great guy and is a true hero.
Raijean Stroud from Oak Park, nominated by Sa’Rah Stroud
Raijean is a hero because she has done so much to inform people about heart disease. What makes Raijean so amazing is that she has suffered from heart disease herself, resulting in two surgeries. Imagine having a defibrillator at the age of 28 and trying to raise a child at the same time. Raijean is very strong to have survived these two surgeries and now she wants to educate everyone, especially young people, about the risks of heart disease and how to minimize their risk. Her Bleeding Heart Project foundation holds annual events to promote heart health awareness. She not only blogs regularly about fashion, beauty and lifestyle on swa-rai.com, but also blogs about heart-related issues at www.bleedingheartproject.com and provides weekly tips on how to keep your heart healthy on the Bleeding Heart Facebook Page. Raijean has truly used her illness to help others!
Voting for this round of Our Town, Our Heroes ends Monday, June 18 at 5:00 p.m. CST. We will announce the winning hero Tuesday, June 19. Follow @DrivingMidwest for real-time updates about the program.
You can also find the new hero finalists on our Facebook page – visit Facebook.com/OurTownOurHeroes today and share the story with your friends, family and supporters!