Adventure Time: Norfolk, VA Edition (Round 3 – American Red Cross “Celebration of Heroes” Luncheon)


This was the luncheon program. I think the “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Acts” tagline is so fitting!

I had such a unique and special adventure today!

My dad and our church have been honored several times from the local chapter of the American Red Cross, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia.

Today, my dad, Jim, and two co-coordinators of the church blood drives, Kathy and Michael, were honored and recognized as the American Red Cross Coastal Virginia “Blood Drive Heroes” during the “Celebration of Heroes” luncheon. It was held at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel. It was outstanding!

Shannon Revels, our blood drive Donor Recruiting Account Manager was the one who submitted the nomination. We were also introduced to Marissa Nihill, Executive Director, Coastal Virginia American Red Cross, Norfolk.

The room was full. Kathy and I had the opportunity and honor to sit with heroes Daniel “Dan” Jones and Gilbert “Smitty” Smith. Dan saved a woman from drowning in the James River in Richmond last summer, and Smitty performed the Heimlich maneuver and other lifesaving acts on a family member, thanks to his first-responder training.

Photo montage!

The tables were beautifully decorated!

The welcome slide of the PowerPoint.

Blood Drive Heroes!

The food was amazing!!

Emcee Ashley Smith, from 13 News Now, was outstanding!

Marissa Nihill, Executive Director, delivers closing remarks.

Every hero/heroes had a framed biography / back story outside the ballroom.

This is Dad’s award. Kathy and Michael’s are identical, with their names engraved.

I know I’m a little biased, focusing on Dad, Kathy, and Michael. However, every single person who was honored today has an amazing story. Everyone was so humble and appreciative!

Here’s the full list of heroes:

  • Disaster Response Hero – Keene Black
  • Coastal Chapter Humanitarian Hero – Jennifer Boykin
  • Community Impact Hero – Judy Fundak
  • First Aid Hero – Daniel Jones
  • Services to Armed Forces Hero – Jason Redman
  • Community Impact Hero – Samuel Clyde Smith
  • Emergency Responder Hero – Gilbert “Smitty” Smith
  • Lifesaving Heroes – Shane McCoy & Clifford Johnson
  • Water Rescue Heroes – Desiree Joseph, Sean Logan, Josh Turner
  • Blood Drive Heroes – Jim Stricker, Michael Strickland, Kathy Williamson
  • Corporate Humanitarian Hero – Dollar Tree

Together, these heroes provided significant relief after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, saved people from drowning and choking, served our country bravely through the military, organized countless blood drives, and much more. It was incredible. Kevin Gaydosh, Co-Chair, Board of Directors of the Coastal Chapter, gave several statistics about the chapter’s efforts in 2017. We noted that there were more than 48,329 units of blood donated!! That’s incredible.

It was such a special event. I got emotional several times. Several heroes received standing ovations. It was incredible to witness, and I’m glad that I was able to be a part of it.

It’s fitting this luncheon was held a week before our next blood drive. It’s also our 18th Anniversary blood drive! If you’re in the Hampton Roads area on Saturday, April 7th, we’d love to see you stop by and Give the Gift of Life.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

My Family’s Famous!

Just kidding. But I do have great news to share, along with an important cause.


Some background info: One of our local news stations, WTKR NewsChannel 3, has the slogan/tagline “Taking Action, Getting Results.” With that, the “People Taking Action” award was conceived a while ago; it’s probably been several years now.

Here’s the lowdown on the format: Anchorman Kurt Williams “ambushes” the recipient for the ultimate surprise. The recipient gets recognized, the nominator reads the nomination on camera, and the recipient receives a framed certificate, a $100 gift card from partner Southern Bank, and a NewsChannel 3 “Taking Action” pin.

Check out this recent “Taking Action” story: Stranger steps in to pay woman’s vet bills

Cool story, right?

Well, my family was involved this past week. My wonderful mother, Karen, nominated my extraordinary father, Jim, for his work organizing blood drives at our church, Aldersgate United Methodist Church (AUMC), for the last 14 years. She put my phone number on the nomination and mentioned that they might call, and they might not, but we had our fingers crossed.

A week goes by, and we were preparing for our 83rd blood drive that was scheduled for Saturday, August 2nd. On Thursday, July 31st, my phone rang. I answered and a man was inquiring about the blood drive on Saturday and when the best time was to come in. I explained to him that the flow (no pun intended) of the drive varies. I asked him if he wanted to make an appointment (they’re honored first so you’re not stuck waiting a long time to give!)

He paused and chuckled. “Well, I’m not looking to make an appointment, I’m just trying to see the best time to bring a camera in.”

Light bulb. I freaked out, realizing I was on the phone with legendary anchorman Kurt Williams! He was calling to tell me they wanted to give my dad the award!

My boyfriend Al will tell you – I was so excited when I got to his house later on, I was literally jumping up and down!

Anyway, fast forward to Saturday. I was on pins and needles all morning long (again, no pun intended)! I’ve never been the best about keeping secrets. The only people that knew about this whole thing was Al, my mom, and my work supervisor. I got up early to help my dad set up the drive, and I thought his choice of a red polo shirt and khakis was spot-on. He says he didn’t have a clue what was coming, but I’m not so sure!

My phone rings and I dash out to the parking lot to meet Kurt and the cameraman. My mom pulled up a few minutes later, we did a quick rehearsal/run-through of the plan, and then we all walked in, camera rolling.

Drum roll, please … Here’s our time in the spotlight!

Let me know what you think. My dad certainly deserves this, he has worked this mission/passion so selflessly for over 14 years. He is so gracious and humble. Kudos to Kurt and our awesome cameraman, whose name unfortunately escapes me (!!), thanks for a great segment.

I’ll leave you on this Wednesday with a few quick facts about our blood drives and how YOU can help:

  • AUMC has held 83 blood drives over 14 years, since April of 2000
  • In those 83 drives, our church has helped collect 5,116 units of blood
  • One unit (pint) of blood can save up to three lives
  • Do the math – Our church has potentially helped save 15,348 lives!
  • There are several ways to give – Whole blood, Double Red, platelets, plasma
  • To give, you only have to be 16 with parent consent, 110 pounds, and in good health
  • There is most likely a blood drive in your area RIGHT NOW!

Currently, the American Red Cross is in URGENT need of blood. The summer is historically a low season for blood donations, and the horrible winter storms that we had affected so many drives, so the Red Cross has been dealt a double-whammy.

If you are able, please consider giving!

Please visit the American Red Cross website to learn more about giving blood and how to find a drive in your area.

As always, if you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them!

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Give the gift of life. Give blood.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂