Wisconsin Heroes

  • July, 2015

    Ananya Murali of Milwaukee

    Ananya Murali accepting the Wisconsin Heroes Award

    Ananya Murali is not a typical high school junior in Wisconsin. She planned, organized, and conducted a leadership/anti-bullying camp, "Step-Up Against Bullying and Violence", for more than 100 middle school girls to teach various strategies to reduce aggression and emotional distress and improve their attitudes toward themselves and others. She presented her project at the International Youth Peace Conference, received $2,000 in grants, and created an anti-bullying and leadership curriculum for middle school girls. She invited national speakers, D.A.R.E. police officers, and the Milwaukee Police Department to come and talk about the dangers of bullying and to do hands-on activities with the students. She invited yoga instructors to come do yoga with the girls, taught them peace songs that she wrote, organized team-building activities, group discussions and blog posts, and created peace murals.

    She also did research about the status of women and girls in the state of Wisconsin and presented her findings at the U.N.’s 59th Commission on Status of Women and attended the trainings at the U.N. Headquarters in New York for a week in March of 2015. She was invited to the Wisconsin Senate's office to talk about her experiences at the U.N. Headquarters. Her goal is to apply for more grants and conduct her anti-bullying and leadership workshop in every school district in Wisconsin to make our state a better place. Ananya is the Inspire by Example Youth Award winner for this year and a Zonta Internationals Young Women in Public Service Award recipient. She won the Young Women of Distinction Award from the Girl Scouts of Southeast Wisconsin for helping to solve a local traffic signal problem in her community in 2012.

    For her exemplary community service at such a young age, Ananya is presented the Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • March, 2015

    Mary Gronnert of Green Bay, WI

    Mary Gronnert of Green Bay, WI

    Mary Gronnert volunteers her time in leadership roles at CASA of Brown County (Court Appointed Special Advocates). She holds multiple leadership roles, including Communications Chair and Board Secretary. Not only does she actively participate in these roles, but she also helped create CASA’s Communications and Public Relations Committee and the CASA Corporate Board – both of which help raise funds and spread the CASA message. CASA of Brown County is a non-profit organization that recruits, screens, and trains everyday citizens from the community to be a voice for abused and neglected children in the courtroom, seeking to find them a safe and permanent home. Due to the confidential nature of this work, it has been difficult to promote and publicize the organization. But Mary has been instrumental in promoting the visibility of CASA. During her tenure, CASA of Brown County has nearly doubled in size and impact. Mary’s volunteer efforts do not stop with CASA. She also works extensively with Options for Independent Living, The Einstein Project, and The Meyer Theatre. Additionally, she raised $31,000 for the local Red Cross through her participation in Dancing with Our Stars, a program of the Red Cross. She dedicated her first of two dances to the CASA children. She was also recently awarded the runner-up for the Schneider Volunteer Leadership Award.

    For Mary’s dedication to the needs of her community, she was awarded the March 2015 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • December, 2014

    Helen Keyzer of Green Bay, WI

    Sister Helen volunteers her time at Unity Hospice in Green Bay. She assists the Unity chaplains by providing spiritual support to Unity patients and their families. Unity’s hospice program provides care for people who have a prognosis of six months or less to live and are not receiving curative treatment. Sister Helen’s support has taken many forms over the years, but the majority of her donated hours are spent in one-on-one visits with patients. In these visits, Sister Helen experiences both lighthearted discussion and laughter and the solemn unburdening of those who trust and confide in her. Sister Helen has been available to provide comfort at a time when it is needed most. Last year alone she donated over 500 hours while making over 360 patient and family contacts. She drove over 1,665 miles in order to complete these visits.

    For Sister Helen's incredible dedication to providing care during the most difficult of times in people's lives, she is awarded the December Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • November, 2014

    Debra Sadow Koenig of Milwaukee, WI

    Debra Sadow Koenig

    Debra joined the Meta House Board of Directors in 2009 and has served in a variety of positions, including Treasurer and Chair-Elect. Meta House is an organization dedicated to helping omwen in the Milwaukee area overcome drug addiction and rebuild their live sin healthy ways. Debra played an important role in guiding the agency through a monumental change in leadership when its Executive Director of nearly 30 years retired. In 2012, Meta House faced its toughest financial year in decades. By leveraging her personal and professional networks, Debra’s efforts yielded a tremendous impact, resulting in more than $100,000 dollars in sponsorships and donations. During this time, she also single-handedly created a new way for Meta House’s stakeholders to engage with the agency. In conjunction with agency staff and the Board of Directors, Debra led the development of twice-annual ExecConnect events, programs offering insight into the agency’s strategic vision and current financial status. To date, Debra has personally hosted all six of the agency’s ExecConnect events at her law firm. By the end of 2012, and in large part because of Debra’s leadership, Meta House was able to close more than half the gap left by fund reductions.

    Today, Debra is still an active member of the Board of Directors, which she will chair starting in 2015. Her passionate advocacy and support makes it possible for Meta House to continue to offer Milwaukee women an opportunity to overcome drug and alcohol addiction and empower them to reclaim their lives and rebuild their families.

    For Debra’s years of volunteer service, and in honor of her hard work with Meta House, she is awarded the November Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • October, 2014

    Daryl Standafer of Hudson, WI

    Daryl Standafer has volunteered hundreds of hours in the St. Croix Valley area and in support of the state of Wisconsin. He also serves on several boards, and volunteers with many organizations. Notably, he has spent time over his 20 years of advocacy working on securing support and funding for the replacement of the lift bridge connecting Wisconsin to Stillwater, Minnesota. His years of hard work paid off, and he had the honor of speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the bridge in March of 2013.  

    For Daryl’s years of volunteer service, and in honor of his hard work on the Stillwater Lift Bridge project, he is awarded the October Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • September, 2014

    Donald Vineburg of Green Bay, WI

    Wisconsin Hero Donald Vineburg

    Donald Vineburg is the former principal of Ocean Township Intermediate School in New Jersey and is a retired supervisor for student teachers at St. Norbert College. Donald currently volunteers as a reading coach for the Reading Coaches for Kids program two hours each day at Aldo Leopold Community School. He was recently nominated for the Green Bay Packaging Volunteer in Education Award. Each person who interacts with Donald says that he brings effortless happiness and smiles into the classroom simply by showing up. He is an expert at helping children to feel special. Donald, who no longer drives, enjoys the classroom so much that he does everything in his power to make sure he is in school on a daily basis. He believes that working with the children has a positive effect on his health and well-being, and his time in the classroom is truly about making a difference in the lives of children.

    For Donald Vineburg’s unwavering dedication to improving students reading abilities and academic success, he is awarded the September Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • August, 2014

    Vicki Holten of McFarland, WI

    First Lady Tonette Walker presented Vicki Holten with the August 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

    Vicki Holten is the co-founder of the Shared Table community meal program in McFarland, which started in May of 2012. She currently serves on the steering committee and is the meal coordinator for the program. Shared Table serves a free community meal every Thursday evening. The program is not just for feeding the hungry, but also for creating a sense of community. The food is made by a rotating roster of volunteer groups, all coordinated by Vicki. These weekly dinners provide food for more than 100 people. Vicki is also involved with fundraising efforts for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl for Kids’ Sake, and she serves on the committee to coordinate the McFarland Chocolate Fest.

    For Vicki Holten’s ability to repurpose resources in all of the volunteer activities she is involved with to benefit her community, she is awarded the August Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • July, 2014

    Bernard Vandenberk of Green Bay, WI

    First Lady Tonette Walker presented Bernard Vanderberk with the July 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

    Bernard Vandenberk is a retired teacher who volunteers as a tutor at House of Hope, an emergency shelter for homeless young mothers 18 to 24 years of age, and their children. Each year approximately 50 percent of the residents at House of Hope do not have their High school diploma when they move in. In 2008 Bernard approached the House of Hope and asked if he could start a General Education Development (GED) tutoring program. His idea was welcomed and he began to plan and organize a tutoring program. Bernard goes to House of Hope every week to tutor residents for GED exams and college classes. Additionally, there are residents at House of Hope with learning disabilities and Bernard works through these challenges and individualizes each tutoring sessions.

    For Bernard’s initiative and passion to change lives and create brighter futures, he was awarded the July 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • June, 2014

    Elton Peterson of Green Bay, WI

    First Lady Tonette Walker presented Elton Peterson with the June 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

    Elton Peterson has been involved with the De Pere Community Center since 1999. His volunteer efforts at the center consist of helping with the Nutrition Program, meal delivery, and seasonal events. During his almost 21 years of service at the Red Cross, he has volunteered more than 5,500 hours and has provided approximately 10,000 rides to clients unable to transport themselves due to age or disability. He also has volunteered hundreds of hours delivering blood and blood products to patients in need at area hospitals. Additionally, as a member of the De Pere Area Men’s club, Elton served as a captain of a meal route, delivers meals every week, and heads a paper pick-up in De Pere every month. On top of everything else he does to serve his community, Elton has a volunteer musician with three local bands for over 25 years.

    For Elton’s dedication to volunteering in his community, he is awarded the June 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • May, 2014

    Ruth Gullerud of Eau Claire, WI

    First Lady Tonette Walker presented Ruth Gullerud with the May 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

    Ruth Gullerud has been a leading advocate for people with disabilities for the last four decades. She believes her life’s calling is to help people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities recognize their potential and achieve their life goals. Her focus is on people's abilities, not their limitations. Like many of the children and adults whom United Cerebral Palsy of West Central Wisconsin serves, Ruth was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to increase her mobility. Her personal experience and unique perspective on the challenges of living with disabilities benefits people throughout Wisconsin and the United States. In addition to her strong advocacy for people with disabilities, Ruth reads to 1st graders at Immanuel Lutheran Church and School, is a board member of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, and is President of Friends of the UCP Foundation.

    For Ruth’s unwavering advocacy for people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, she is awarded the May Wisconsin Heroes Award.