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Committee unveils Pleasanton's 2019 Ed Kinney Community Patriots

Sarah Banholzer, Jorge Victoria being honored at April 29 ceremony

The 2019 Ed Kinney Community Patriot Awards are being presented to (shown) Sarah Banholzer and Jorge Victoria. (Photos by Bella Luna Studios Photography)

Friends, acquaintances and family members are invited to a champagne reception 5:30-7 p.m. April 29 at Museum on Main to honor this year's recipients of the Ed Kinney Community Patriot Awards: Sarah Banholzer and Jorge Victoria.

Now in its 14th year, the awards honor the memory of the former mayor, who also was the master of ceremonies for the all-volunteer Fourth of July celebration in Lions Wayside Park. The awardees are selected by the planning team for the Independence Day event, plus past recipients of the award.

The awards program is under the auspices of Make A Difference, Today & Always.

Sarah Banholzer

Banholzer is the first Community Patriot who is still in high school. She is a junior at Amador Valley High, editor of the school paper and plays volleyball for the high school and for a club team. She was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 4 years old and treated at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, and her life since then has been about giving back.

Banholzer started holiday craft projects in 2012, including ornaments and planters, to raise money to make the hospital stay better for children. It provides each young patient with a gift that Santa hand-delivers Christmas Eve.

In high school, Banholzer started a Make-A-Wish Club and coordinates fundraising to earn $10,000 to grant a child's wish; she vividly remembers her wish coming true with a trip to Disneyland when she was 5. She is also on the teen board of the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation.

In fifth grade, she was given an assignment to describe her life in five words. She chose: "Be Strong and Give Back Happiness," which has become her motto and the name of her annual swimathon, started in 2014. This year it will be held on May 5; for more information, go to www.bestrongandgivebackhappiness.com.

The swimathon has raised more than $60,000 for Children's Hospital Oakland. Banholzer meets with hospital staff each year to determine what programs to fund, which have included life-size dolls used to demonstrate medical procedures and Buzzy Bees to distract children while they are getting shots or blood drawn. She also helped fund a summer camp for young oncology patients that was about to be canceled.

In the fall of Banholzer's sophomore year, she was diagnosed with lymphoma and began another two years of chemotherapy, missing the rest of her school year. She continued her studies at home and was able to return to school on time as a junior and resume her many school activities.

Banholzer, who also won the Weekly's 2018 Tri-Valley Heroes Courage award in 2018, said what she likes most about Pleasanton is knowing so many people everywhere she goes around town. She is starting to think about college and has visited campuses in southern California, and said she feels a mid-size campus would be right for her.

"Sarah may be young, but her contributions to the community are certainly impressive, and she epitomizes the values for which the Ed Kinney awards stand -- love, faith, pride, belief and devotion," the selection committee noted.

Jorge Victoria

Victoria was born in Mexico and came to the United States in the mid-1950s when he was 9. He learned English in school but has also continued to speak Spanish, which has been of benefit as it helps to bridge an understanding between cultures.

Victoria finished his education, including college, in the United States, and for a while lived in Hayward, Then in 1983, he and his wife Sylvia moved their family to Pleasanton where they raised two daughters and one son. They now have five grandchildren. He worked for 25 years at Lawrence Livermore Lab as a mechanical designer and retired eight years ago.

It was a little more than 26 years ago that one of his daughters read about the sister city program between Pleasanton and Tulancingo, Mexico, and wanted to be an exchange student. Soon the whole family was involved in the Pleasanton-Tulancingo Sister City Association, as the Victorias hosted an exchange student, then their daughter went to Tulancingo.

From that point forward, Victoria has continued volunteering: He has been board president on multiple occasions plus headed committees. He has helped raise more than $260,000 through the annual barbecue fundraiser, has worked on the Cinco de Mayo Celebration, the Christmas Holiday Parade, the Fair Parade float, the Community Posada (re-enactment for Pleasanton at the Veterans Hall at Christmas), plus the student exchanges each year.

Victoria also has gone to Mexico almost every year with the five-day adult visiting cultural delegation and helps coordinate the visiting delegation from Tulancingo. This month, former mayor Tom Pico will travel with Jorge and Sylvia Victoria along with about 25 other adults from Pleasanton.

The Pleasanton-Tulancingo Sister City Association has worked with Rotary to provide wheelchairs to Mexico, and with the Pleasanton Lions Club to provide eyeglasses to Mexico for those in need. Victoria also has volunteered for other youth organizations, including the softball league and Boy Scouts, and was Scout Master of Troop 916 for many years.

Victoria said he will always support the exchange program because he sees the benefit to children and adults -- the value of friendship, the pride in Pleasanton and Tulancingo that is shared, and understanding between the two cultures.

Since he has been involved, the program has served more than 300 teenagers, and he sees the confidence it has given to young people that lasts their lifetimes. He invites more people to become involve and help continue the legacy.

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