Again this year the committee had an opportunity to learn about some of our fellow Tri-Valley residents who are making contributions to better our communities and their residents, and it is a humbling experience. We are surrounded by some amazing people.
The committee did, however, name the 2013 Tri-Valley Heroes. This year's recipients are:
* Arts and Culture, for achievements or contributions within the area of arts and culture: H. Robert "Bob" Williams, Pleasanton. Bob Williams has dedicated most of his 80+ years to sharing a love of music, most notably in our region as the conductor of the Pleasanton Community Concert Band for almost its entire existence. This involves not only weekly practice sessions and multiple concerts each year -- free to the public -- but also considerable research into appropriate music for specific occasions, such as our community's Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Memorial Day celebrations.
* Community Spirit, for selfless, tireless and largely unacknowledged actions that have enriched or improved the quality of life for the local community: Mike Conklin and Sentinels of Freedom, San Ramon. The father of three Army Rangers, Conklin established Sentinels of Freedom after one of his sons was wounded in Iraq in 2003. Sentinels of Freedom connects permanently disabled veterans with community volunteers who pool their resources to support U.S. veterans who have suffered severe service-related injuries. This support includes four years of housing, an accessible vehicle, a suitable job and ongoing community support and self-sufficiency services.
* Courage, for an act of bravery or for determination and strength of character to triumph over adversity: Kevin Laue, Pleasanton. Despite being born with one arm, Kevin Laue, a graduate of Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, has gone on to play Division I basketball for an NCAA college. This journey from being an unsure child to the first one-armed Division 1 basketball player has been chronicled in the 2012 documentary, "Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story." Though his skill and size (he's 6'11") make him a great player, his determination and perseverance made him an amazing inspiration.
* Environmental Stewardship, for a group or individual committed to minimizing risks and conserving and recycling, thereby reducing the impact of our business on the community and natural resources: Save Mount Diablo. Save Mount Diablo's mission is to preserve Mount Diablo's peaks, surrounding foothills and watersheds through land acquisition and preservation strategies. Save Mount Diablo's mission is to preserve, protect and restore the natural lands on and around Mount Diablo for wildlife and people to enjoy. Since 1971, preserved open space has increased from less than 7,000 acres to over 110,000 acres in more than 40 parks.
* Innovation, for a person, group or business who apply innovative ideas or programs to enhance the community: Neil Gupta, Danville. Gupta, a 15-year-old student at Monte Vista High School, came up with the idea of TeenMesh while studying and collaborating with his peers at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India. TeenMesh is a Q&A website created to answer all questions teenagers have on every school-related topic and is used by more than a thousand students in 70 different countries.
* Rising Star, for a young person whose services directly benefit Tri-Valley citizens through outstanding volunteer work, serving as a community role model and mentor or demonstrating random acts of kindness: Taylor Dorsey, Pleasanton. Currently a freshman at University of the Pacific, Taylor Dorsey has a philosophy of giving back, and has done a lot for others. Born deaf, Dorsey has been an active volunteer with Reach for Books (a nonprofit organization that raises money to send Spanish books to remote communities along the Amazon River in Peru), the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity and Operation School Bell, which helps Northern California children in need buy school clothes. She has been recognized locally with many scholarships from various organizations and from as far away as the White House: Earlier this year, President Barack Obama awarded her a "President's Volunteer Service Award."
* Role Model, for displaying common sense, compassion and wisdom while teaching, coaching and mentoring others with a vision for people to strive to be the best they can be: Kenneth Mano, Pleasanton. After three decades of leading volunteer efforts for youth in the Tri-Valley, at his church and for the disabled, Ken Mano can count in the thousands the number of those in need he's been able to help. He has coordinated the annual Special Olympics basketball, track and volleyball competitions in Pleasanton for 10 years. He served as a missionary in Japan with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been heavily involved in Boy Scouts for the past 35 years.
* Lifetime Achievement, which recognizes an individual or group for contributions, leadership, enthusiasm, and tireless efforts on behalf of his or her community and neighbors: Kenneth E. Behring, Danville. Successful business man, avid sports fan, author and philanthropist, Ken Behring has contributed to numerous charities, initiated the creation many charitable foundations, donated millions of dollars to museums, including the Smithsonian, and established museums such as the Blackhawk Museum and the U.C. Berkeley Museum of Art. However, The Wheelchair Foundation, which Behring founded in 2000, has a lofty goal: To deliver a wheelchair to every man, woman and child in the world who needs one. According to the Wheelchair Foundation, an estimated 100 to 130 million people worldwide need wheelchairs but fewer than 1 percent own or have access to one. And it estimates the number of people who need wheelchairs will increase by 22 percent over the next ten years, with the greatest need existing in developing countries. With such staggering and seemingly insurmountable figures, a solution hardly seems imminent. However, Kenneth E. Behring is tackling the issue one wheelchair -- or sometimes 5,000 -- at a time. To date, more than 940,000 wheelchairs have been delivered or committed to people around the world.
We will profile two Heroes a week Nov. 22 through Dec. 13.
And a huge thank you to the program sponsors: San Ramon Regional Medical Center, Safeway, Gene's Fine Foods, Monterey Private Wealth, Hilton Pleasanton at the Club and Harrington Art Partnership. This program would not be possible without them!