Wisconsin Heroes


  • June, 2013

    Mark Muench of Beechwood, Wisconsin

    The First Lady poses for a picture with Mark Muench after Mark was awarded the June Wisconsin Heroes Award. June 20, 2013

    Mark has dedicated his entire life to his hometown. He is a third generation firefighter and has been a member of the Beechwood Volunteer Fire Department since 1974. He has also served as a First Responder for 28 years and as Fire Chief for the past 21 years. He worked for the Town of Scott for 21 years as a road foreman. Whether it is plowing snow, fixing potholes, or mowing ditches, he takes great pride in a job well done. Mark approaches both of his roles with pride, dedication, and heart. Mark is the person out-of-town families call to check on their elderly loved ones in the winter to make sure they are okay. In his role of Fire Chief, Mark is always hands-on. He is beside his men when there are hoses to be rolled up, trucks to be washed, and generators to be repaired. On a fire scene, he puts the safety of his men first. Throughout the years, he has put in countless hours maintaining equipment and writing grant requests to update old equipment. He has received a total of $315,000 through his grant requests. He also involves his family and community in collecting cans to raise funds for scholarships to send children to Burn Camp through the Wisconsin Alliance for Fire Safety. In the beginning, he was able to give $250, and now after five years of his efforts, he is able to give $1,000.

    For Muench’s kind efforts and dedication to the Beechwood Volunteer Fire Department, he is presented with the June 2013 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • May, 2013

    Donna Walter of Oshkosh, Wisconsin

    The First Lady poses for a picture with Donna Walter after Donna was awarded the May Wisconsin Heroes Award. May 23, 2013

    Following the death of her husband, Oshkosh resident Donna Walter was in search of a way to spend her time and put her talents to good use. She found joy in volunteering her time at Aurora Medical Center in Oshkosh, and her selfless efforts have not gone unnoticed. She volunteers 30 hours a week at the medical center. Being a breast cancer survivor herself, she is able to relate to many patients as they cope with the difficulties of battling illness. Donna’s time and dedication was so valuable to Aurora Medical Center that they created a special role just for her. Donna now serves as Volunteer Ambassador, working as a liaison amongst patients, family members, visitors, and caregivers. She even has her own office, phone extension, and e-mail address, which is a huge kudos to her and her value.

    For Walter’s countless weekly volunteer hours, care and concern for others, and dedication to Aurora Medical Center, she is presented with the May 2013 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • April, 2013

    Joyce Keyes of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

     The First Lady poses for a picture with Dr. Joyce Keyes after Joyce was awarded the April Wisconsin Heroes Award. May 02, 2013

    Dr. Joyce Keyes is currently retired as a clinical psychiatrist, but she volunteers more than 40 hours per week to the American Red Cross. She leads the Fond du Lac County Disaster Action Teams and trains others to be disaster responders. Joyce has been a strong force for local, regional, statewide and national disaster efforts, and she was appointed to one of the 15 seats on the United States National Disaster Advisory Council. She has helped with relief efforts for multiple disasters, including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, and Isaac, the Kansas ice storm, and the Alabama tornadoes, keeping her away from her home and family for weeks at a time. When half of Wisconsin was underwater in 2008, she was the disaster coordinator for Fond du Lac, one of the busiest counties, and they hosted the largest shelter in the state.

    For Keyes’ dedication to serving others through the Red Cross, she is presented with the April 2013 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • March, 2013

    William Wright of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin

    The First Lady poses for a picture with the Wright family after William was awarded the March Wisconsin Heroes Award. March 29, 2013

    In 2010, William Wright’s wife, Tricia, was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer, which metastasized to her liver and lungs. During her treatment, Tricia received support and encouragement from a local group that would later become known as “Tricia’s Troops.” The Wrights were so inspired by the support they received during Tricia’s treatment. This support filled the family with a sense of peace, hope, and a calling to live vibrantly. Together, Tricia and William founded Tricia’s Troops Cancer Connection in May of 2011. They wanted to give back and support other members of their community facing a cancer diagnosis. Sadly, despite surgery and chemotherapy, Tricia passed away in April of 2012. Wright, a hard-working and now single father of two beautiful daughters, has made it his personal mission to let his late wife’s legacy live on.

    For Wright’s passionate commitment to help Tricia’s Troops grow and thrive, he is presented with the March 2013 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • February, 2013

    Kevin Paluch of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

    Kevin Paluch receives the February Wisconsin Heroes Award. February 15, 2013

    Kevin Paluch has always had a strong desire to give back to his community. In 2005, Kevin founded the Geneva National Foundation, which has since donated more than $1.55 million to local Walworth County non-profits. In 2010, as the Chief Operating Officer of Geneva National Golf Club, Paluch first offered the golf course to SMILES, an organization which offers therapeutic horseback riding for children and adults with disabilities, for their annual golf fundraiser. Through the proceeds raised, SMILES has been able to become a year-round facility.

    Kevin and the Geneva National Foundation are currently working to build an inclusive playground for Walworth County residents where children and adults of all abilities can play side by side, helping to bridge the gaps and dispel stereotypes that exist between people of differing abilities.

    For the numerous people the Geneva National Foundation has touched, Kevin is presented the February 2013 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • January, 2013

    Tom Schiltz of Menasha, Wisconsin

    Tom Schiltz is congratulated as he receives a Wisconsin Heroes Award for his more than thirty years of dedication to the St. Joseph Food Program, which he founded. January 31, 2013

    Thirty years ago, Tom Schiltz learned that 400 people would be laid off from his local Appleton company, which prompted him to ask, "What would I do if it were me?" Tom’s empathy for those losing their jobs sparked his idea to seek donations from family, friends, members of his church, and the local business community. One donation triggered another, and the generosity from the community led to the formation of the St. Joseph Food Program. Today, the organization provides meals to more than 1000 families each week, free of charge. St. Joe’s is a private organization, relying only on the generosity of the community for assistance.

    Tom is a hero to the thousands of individuals who have walked through the doors of St. Joe’s, all because thirty years ago, he believed in the good of his fellow man. For his efforts to pull his community together to help neighbors in need, Tom Schiltz is the recipient of the January 2013 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • December, 2012

    Ellen Persik of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    The first lady and Ellen Persik pose next to caps created by the "Chemo Cap Crew". December 20, 2012

    Ellen Persik founded and leads the "Chemo Cap Crew" and has been the driving force behind the Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren law firm's participation in the American Cancer Society's "Strides Against Breast Cancer" for more than a decade.

    Inspired by her beloved niece, who was undergoing chemotherapy at the time, and the uncomfortable caps she was given to wear, Ellen sought to create a better option for chemotherapy patients. Ellen shared some ideas with her co-workers, who quickly signed on to help, and the "Chemo Cap Crew" began making comfortable and stylish caps. The thousands of customized, comfortable hats the crew makes are donated to hospitals, clinics, and individuals.

    Through her roles as chairperson, board member, spokesperson, and loyal volunteer for numerous cancer awareness events, Ellen has helped raise more than $400,000 to fight breast cancer. For her dedicated fight against the disease, Ellen is the recipient of the December Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • November, 2012

    Dale Petkovsek of Willard, Wisconsin

    The first lady travels to Willard, WI to honor Dale Petkovsek for his work in founding and organizing the West-Central Clark County Hunt for Hunters with Disabilities. November 26, 2012

    Dale Petkovsek founded West-Central Clark County Hunt for Hunters with Disabilities in 1999.  Since then, Dale and fellow sportsmen in the Willard area coordinate a special deer hunt each year for hunters with disabilities. The event is now the largest organized rifle deer hunt in the nation, hosting 657 hunters in the past twelve years. Hunters’ disabilities range from high level paralysis to blindness and amputations to heart and lung disease.

    Through Dale's efforts, disabled sportsmen hunt on more than 100 private properties in Clark County, WI. Mentors assist disabled hunters with everything from climbing into a blind to field-dressing a deer. For many people faced with disabilities, this program has changed their lives. The hunt provides participants with an event to look forward to, a place to meet new people, and an opportunity to share deer camp experiences.

    Through his vision, ambition, and determination, Dale has provided an amazing hunting opportunity for those who share similar struggles as he does. Dale provides this hunting opportunity free of charge and does not get paid for the hundreds of hours he pours into managing the details. For his heroic efforts share the great Wisconsin tradition of deer hunting to residents with disabilities, Dale is awarded the November 2012 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • October, 2012

    Bob Garfinkel of Kewaunee, Wisconsin

    Bob Garfinkel is recognized for his hard work and dedication to the Literacy Partners program. November 01, 2012

    As the volunteer President of Literacy Partners of Kewaunee County, Bob Garfinkel is the heart, soul, and driving force behind Literacy Partners of Kewaunee County, which seeks to improve literacy among residents of the county. Through his leadership, the organization has expanded to serve more than 60 adult students through 55 volunteer tutors.

    On any given day, Bob serves as a literacy tutor, works to recruit additional volunteers, engages community and business support for the organization, drives to pick up new books from the resource center, and closes the day running the board meeting.

    For his dedication to enriching lives of Kewaunee County residents through literacy improvement, Garfinkel is presented with a Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • September, 2012

    Jordyn Schara of North Freedom, Wisconsin

     Classmates look on as the first lady presents Reedsburg Highschool senior Jordyn Shara with a Wisconsin Heroes award. September 26, 2012

    Jordyn Schara, a 17-year-old activist, learned that when prescription medicines are thrown out in the trash, they can contaminate our groundwater, and can lead to tap water containing antibiotics, heart medications, and even psychiatric drugs. However, if left unsecured in our medicine cabinets, these same drugs are contributing to the recent and sometimes tragic epidemic of teenage prescription drug abuse.

    Upon learning that more people abuse prescription drugs than most illegal drugs combined, Jordyn created Wisconsin Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal (P2D2), which has spread across the country. P2D2 has collected more than 600,000 pounds of drugs since founded. Jordyn has engaged high school students to volunteer, mentored teens and adults across the country, and continues to work with Wisconsin municipalities to open 24/7 drug drop-off boxes throughout the state.

    For Jordyn’s commitment to preventing teenage prescription drug abuse, she is awarded the September Wisconsin Heroes Award. 

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