First Lady Tonette Walker

Hughes named first recipient of Wisconsin Heroes Award

By: Amanda Lutey, Beaver Dam Daily Citizen
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wisconsin First Lady Tonette Walker recognized Linda Hughes as the first recipient of the Wisconsin Heroes Award on Monday, during a ceremony held at Rascals and Rockers, a dayschool Hughes runs in her home.

Walker began the award program to recognize "ordinary people doing extraordinary things" to help make Wisconsin a better place, and selected Hughes for her work in helping make ornaments that adorned the 2011 Tribute to the Troops tree at the executive residence, and for the mailing program Hughes runs that sends care packages to military personnel.

"It's truly an inspiring story and really what Wisconsin is all about," Walker said.

Hughes said she is inspired daily by her students. She said the military mailing program is made possible "because of a community that is not only financially supportive, but is there to help to complete my ideas, my vision and my dreams."

Hughes thanked people in the audience who helped her, including her students, her family and friends, and Kathy Nehmer, who helped create the Gold Star angel ornaments used to decorate the Tribute to the Troops tree.

Dave Pickhardt, who served in the Air National Guard, talked about receiving packages from Hughes while he served in Iraq, and said she also sent packages to his children while he was deployed.

"It was a touch of home," said Pickhardt of receiving care packages from Hughes.

Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls, who serves as a colonel in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, said Hughes sent him packages during his tour of duty in Afghanistan, and spoke about how he nominated Hughes for a recognition award from the Wisconsin National Guard Associaton in 2009.

"Thank you for what you do, Linda," said Nehls.

After presenting the award to Hughes, Walker helped Rascals and Rockers students pack Valentine's Day-themed care packages.

Richard Flynn, who retired from the Navy SeaBees said the he got a package from Hughes while he served in Kuwait in 2000.

To learn more about the Wisconsin Hereos Award, visit

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