2013-14 Indiana Heroes Award Recipients


The Indiana Heroes program presented by Citizens Energy Group serves as one of the premier community outreach programs of the Indiana Pacers. This program honors an individual(s) who have made an overwhelming impact on the lives of others and who, through their unique commitment and humanitarian spirit, have made exceptional and lasting contributions to our community and our State.

Nominate Someone for the Indiana Heroes Award »

The Indiana Pacers are now accepting nominations Indiana Pacers Indiana Heroes Award Program presented by Citizens Energy Group. Click Here to nominate a neighbor, friend or relative who is a firefighter, policeman, rescue worker, or just an everyday hero like a teacher, nurse or community leader making a difference. Nominations must include the nominee’s name, street address, city, state, zip code, phone number and email address, along with a short description of why this nominee is deserving of the award. The description should include examples of the nominee’s level of commitment, as well as any lasting contributions to the community.

See Photos of All of This Season's Indiana Heroes »

Helen Parrish, Indiana Heroes Award Recipient


October 29, 2013

Helen Parrish, an 11-year old special needs child, was taking a dip with her family in their apartment complex pool when a 2-year old child who couldn’t swim, fell into the pool. Using the knowledge she had received from her own swim lessons, Helen helped rescue the drowning child by pulling her out and placing her on top of the pool steps. Due to Helen’s actions, the 2-year has made a full recovery.


Olivia Keith, Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

November 6, 2013

For the past two years, Olivia has been on a mission to help kids her age learn about brain health & prevention. After seeing first-hand her mom suffer from two traumatic brain injuries, she does not want other kids to experience what her mom does on a daily basis. Olivia regularly gives presentations to her 3rd & 4th grade class and helped raise money for brain injury education this year.

Using her ambition to help brain injury awareness among her peer, she partnered with the Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund, Inc. to help raise awareness of brain injuries/concussions in student athletes.


Officer Bradway's family accepts the Indiana Heroes Award

November 8, 2013

Officer Rod Bradway, a five-year veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, was shot and killed while responding to a domestic dispute call in a northwest Indianapolis apartment complex. Upon arrival, Officer Bradway heard cries for help and made entry into an apartment where he came under fire and was mortally wounded. Officer Bradway was able to return fire on the subject and is credited with saving the life of the domestic dispute victim. Officer Bradway was transported to Wishard Hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds several hours later.

Officer Bradway is remembered as a true Indiana Hero and we are proud to honor his wife Jamie and his children for this ultimate sacrifice to our community.

Ann Mennonno receives the Indiana's Heroes Award


November 15, 2013

Ann Mennonno was named the 2013-14 Indianapolis Public Schools Teacher of the Year – the 2nd time she has received the award. Ann teaches at Center For Inquiry #27 and loves reading & encourages all of her students to fall in love with books. She is a dedicated teacher and spent this past summer teaching students in China and Honduras.


Denise Jacobson, Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

November 25, 2013

Denise has been offering on-going support to families and friends that are making the journey through a cancer diagnosis. After talking to many providers it became clear that affordable housing during their treatment was lacking in Indianapolis. Denise and her husband Scott, took on the financial risk and purchased a home that will become the SON Foundation House, located near the IU Simon Cancer Center. For a nominal donation of $15 per night, the SON Foundation hopes to provide a “home away from home” where patients, caregivers and/or families can take care of their everyday tasks, as well as find emotional and spiritual support during this difficult time.


December 10, 2013

Steve Berman receives the Indiana's Heroes Award

Steve Berman is the President and Chief Executive Officer of JAKKS Pacific, a multi-brand company that, since 1995, has been designing, developing, producing and marketing toys, leisure products and writing instruments for children and adults around the world.

Since 2010, Mr. Berman and Jakks Cares have generously donated over 225,000 toys to benefit under-served children in Indianapolis and bring joy to their faces, not only during the holidays, but all year long!

These toys have been distributed to area non-profit children’s organizations in both July and December and have helped these children simply smile, play and succeed.


Officer Kelsay and Sgt. Carter receive the Indiana Heroes Award

December 16, 2013

Officer Kimberly Kelsay

Officer Kelsay’s primary duties have her working closely with students from K-12 in the Indianapolis Public, Wayne Township, and Decatur Township School Systems, which are all located in the IMPD Southwest District boundaries. Officer Kelsay works non-stop in giving her presentations to these students, which include the subjects of substance abuse, bullying, safety/personal protection, among others.

Officer Kelsay has touched the lives of many students in her capacity of her multiple presentations. Boys and girls alike have benefited & received encouragement, support, valuable teaching/information, and even protection by Officer Kelsay’s intervention.

Many of her interactions include follow-up visits at the homes of students, with their parents & family. Officer Kelsay impacts the lives of others by making a difference in these kid’s lives when they need it most, & many times she is the only person that does.

IMPD and the city of Indianapolis is a better place simply because of Officer Kelsay.

Sgt. William Carter

Going out of his way to enhance his service to our community and to IMPD, Sgt. Carter both purchased and uses a personal bloodhound to search for missing persons on his own time. This is not part of his regular duties as an IMPD officer and was called out 20 times last year on searches.

Sgt. Carter obtained the bloodhound in 2005 after responding to the drowning death of a 7 year old autistic boy who wandered away from home and ended up in a retention pond. Sgt. Carter has been featured in the media with his devotion to others and places the department in a positive light throughout the community he serves.

Officer Greg Stevens receives the Indiana Heroes Award


December 20, 2013

IMPD Officer Greg Stevens responded to a disturbance call at an east-side apartment complex, where two men were shooting at each other. After arriving on scene, Officer Stevens saw one suspect with a gun and ordered him to drop it. When the suspect refused to drop the gun; shots were exchanged and Officer Stevens was struck in the leg.

Witnesses called his actions extremely brave and helped deter further violence in the area that night. Officer Stevens has since made a full recovery.

In addition to his service on the police force, Officer Stevens is Marine Corps veteran who served three tours in Iraq.


Detectives Perkins and Cress Receive the Indiana Heroes Award

January 4, 2014

The city of Indianapolis experienced a series of brutal home invasion robberies and assaults. Each incident resulted in more aggressive behavior by the suspects, resulting in shootings, vicious assaults, and the ransacking of the residences. The incidents occurred early in the morning, where the unsuspecting victims were dragged out of their bedrooms.

These attacks frightened the entire community, which experienced an increase in gun sales and the overall feeling that people were not safe in their own homes.

Detectives Perkins and Cress worked hundreds of hours over a four week period, to identify and arrest the responsible persons. They went with little sleep and worked around the clock. There were hundreds of leads to follow and numerous pieces of evidence to collect and analyze.

This extreme sacrifice resulted in the arrest of 12 suspects, with over 250 felony charges being filed. Detectives Perkins and Cress also obtained confessions from several of the suspects, resulting in a solid criminal case being put together.

This pack of criminals will be off the streets of Indianapolis for many years to come.

Our city breathed a sigh of relief, and is now safer thanks to the hard work of Detectives Perkins and Cress.

Albert McPhearson Receives the Indiana Heroes Award


January 7, 2014

As a volunteer policeman in Elwood, Albert always goes out of his way to assist other people. While on duty at a local Haunted House, one of the costumed employees came in contact with a burning torch and caught on fire. Albert went over to him and proceeded to cut his costume off and rolled him on the ground until the fire was out. In the process, Albert’s shoes and the bottom of his pants were also burned. Thanks to Albert’s quick thinking and swift action, the victim survived and is currently recovering from his burns.


January 16, 2014

Steven Perkins

In October of this year, Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, awarded Steven Perkins of North Central High School as Indiana’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.

Perkins is a high school Latin teacher and has been teaching at North Central since 1998. He uses his passion for Latin to teach his students more than language. Through language he also teaches them about art, math, geography, history, English and the performing arts. He tirelessly works to improve his students’ knowledge of the world.


Indiana State Police Sgt. Luke NaThalang

January 18, 2014

Indiana State Police Sgt. Luke NaThalang recently saved the life of an individual who had a heart attack after being involved in a car crash. Sgt. NaThalanag arrived at the scene and administered CPR, keeping the victim alive until EMS arrived. As a 29-year Indiana State Police Motorcycle Unit officer, he is dedicated to our safety on Indiana’s roads.




Claire Helmen

January 30, 2014

Claire Helmen, a senior at Bishop Chatard High School, is doing her part to help comfort children who have gone through a traumatic event. Claire has donated 600 blankets to the Indianapolis Police Department, as part of her self-created charitable organization, Claire’s Comfort for Kids.

Claire came up with the idea when she was in 6th grade after wondering what happened to children involved in domestic violence situations. She came up with the idea to make blankets, as way to give them a big warm hug.

Claire has created a total of 3,600 blankets and is a former Children’s Museum Power of Children Award winner and was recognized for her creation of this amazing program.


Officer Jason Scott

February 3, 2014

An IMPD officer bought new bicycles for two children whose bikes were stolen within a few days of each other. Officer Jason Scott was dispatched Monday to an east side home to take a report on the theft of a 7-year-old girl's bicycle, a recent birthday gift. Jessica, the girl's mother, told the officer that it was the second such theft in their household in just a few days. Her 8-year-old son's bike was also taken. Metro police say the mom cried as she shared pictures of the bikes, photos that might help identify them if officers found the bikes. Officer Scott said he couldn't help but notice that both mom and dad worked hard to provide for their family, but had little left over for luxuries, much less replacing stolen gifts. The officer's supervisors say that, without hesitation, Scott drove to a Walmart and picked out two bikes to replace the ones which were stolen, paying for them from his own pocket. Having learned what the officer was doing, Walmart provided a discount. Jessica said the kids were thrilled with their new bikes and added that she did not expect the IMPD officer's generous gesture.


Greenfield Police Officer Josh Mullins

February 7, 2014

Greenfield Police Officer Josh Mullins responded to a call of a house fire. Upon arriving on the scene, he discovered the home engulfed in flames, and also learned that this home belonged to a fellow firefighter in Indianapolis who was on duty that night. Battling the flames, he could hear people yelling for help and noticed the screams were coming from a second-story window. He knew he had to get these people out immediately. Officer Mullins convinced the two teenagers and mother inside to jump into his arms below. Officer Mullins safely caught all three victims who escaped with only minor injuries.



February 18, 2014

Marilyn, Carla and Kate have been instrumental in developing and implementing Riley Hospital for Children’s Art Therapy Program. Art therapy is a natural form of expression for children and adolescents and helps people of all ages make sense of and express their thoughts and feelings in a non-threatening way. The goal of the art therapy program is to help children express themselves and cope through using various art media. Through their work with this innovative program, Marilyn, Carla and Kate have helped and continue to help patients make sense of and express thoughts and feelings, communicate with medical staff, reduce stress and anxiety, and much more.


BEV HARTIG - Indiana Heroes Award recipient on February 25

February 25, 2014

Bev Hartig and her husband moved to Indiana in 2002. In 2003 they welcomed a daughter that suffers from Cri du Chat, which can be described as severe Down Syndrome; and in 2004 welcomed a healthy baby boy. After facing the many trials in dealing with their daughter’s disability, Bev was then diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, a terminal genetic disease that is a mix between Alzheimer’s and ALS. Instead of living in fear of how their lives would play out, including a 50% chance their children would inherit this disease, Bev and her husband Bob started their own non-profit organization called the Bev Hartig Huntington’s Disease Fundraiser. So far they have raised over $350,000 towards finding a cure for Huntington’s Disease. Bev has made a huge difference in the Indianapolis community by showing courage in the face of adversity. Instead of giving up and allowing the disease to run her life, she if facing this disease head on and teaching others how to deal with hardship.

Officer Marilyn Gurnell's husband Officer Ed Gurnell accepts the award on her behalf

Officer Marilyn Gurnell's husband, Officer Ed Gurnell accepts the award.


March 4, 2014

Officer Gurnell has devoted herself to educating and developing young girls in the Police Athletic League (PAL) into responsible young women and good citizens. She has given large amounts of her own time, serving as a Cheerleading Coach to three different age groups of girls. She has inspired others to volunteer as assistant coaches and cares for their uniforms, washing and pressing them herself. She also has provided them with other clothing and food as well as school supplies. Marilyn has not just volunteered her time for a few months or a few years, she has served for over 20 years as a PAL volunteer. Until Marilyn came along, PAL was an all boys’ club, where she served as coach, mentor and mother, all with an unrelenting vigilance.


COLIN LOTT - Indiana Heroes Award recipient on March 11

March 11, 2014

After being challenged to “be the match” by Pacers Roy Hibbert, Area 55 member Colin Lott signed up for the national bone marrow registry at Castleton Square Mall.

After having his cheek swabbed, it was discovered that Colin was a match for someone and that he was going to be able to help save the life of a woman he’s never even met. Lott spent most of the day at the hospital to prepare for the procedure and then proudly displayed the Blue & Gold at the Pacers game later that evening.



March 17, 2014

Nathan was dropping off his co-worker Michael Wilson, when they noticed smoke coming from a home. They wanted to make sure everyone made it out okay, but instead found a man passed out, face down on the ground and in serious condition. Both Burch and Wilson grabbed the victim and pulled him out of the home. As soon as they got him outside, he started coming to and was quickly rushed to the hospital.

This is not the first time Burch has saved a life. In 2004 he saved a 1-month old baby and her mother from a house fire. Later that year he was inducted into the Red Cross Hall of Fame for savings those two in that fire.



March 31, 2014

Amber Ross and Melissa Philhower were driving near a retention pond in Fishers and saw a man crash into the water. Using a hammer provided by area construction workers, who had also run up to the scene to help, they broke a rear driver’s side window, unlocked the door and helped the driver out of the water. Ross, who has emergency medical training, started CPR and compressions on the victim before emergency crews arrived. Both Ross and Philhower were presented with a Hero award during the December 6 Fishers Town Council Meeting.



April 6, 2014

Sgt. Fettinger of the Fishers Police Department was conducting a routine security check during a basketball game at Fishers Junior High School, when he observed a 12-year boy collapse during the game. He immediately radioed for medics and additional officers for help. Sgt. Fettinger rushed onto the court and found the boy unresponsive and not breathing. Community Hospital ER Dr. Jason Hollingsworth, who was in attendance for the game, came out of the stands to assist and CPR was initiated. Utilizing the AED device in his car, Sgt. Fettinger and Dr. Hollingsworth continued shock and CPR until paramedics arrived and transported the boy to the hospital. Through their quick thinking and heroic efforts they were able to save his life and he is making a full recovery.



Playoffs: Round 1, Home Game #1 - April 19

Earlier this year, Butch and his nephew Josh drove by a residence and noticed that an elderly woman had fallen on the ice and could not move. The temperature that day was around zero with a below zero wind chill and she had been in that position for nearly 30 minutes trying to wave down cars for help.

Butch and Josh quickly jumped out of their truck and assessed the situation, realizing she was in dire need of help. Both men carried her into her home and contacted 911. While they waited for the ambulance to arrive, Butch and Josh cared for her and ultimately saved her life.

After arriving at the hospital, doctors indicated that if not for these heroes coming to her aid, she would have died, as her body was becoming frozen from the inside out. After a few months of rehabilitation, she is now back to living a normal life.



Playoffs: Round 1, Home Game #3 - April 28

In June of 2013, Officer Cortez was on duty searching for a drunk driver that had already struck 3 other vehicles and fled the scene. While searching for that vehicle, Officer Cortez was struck by the same driver, ejecting him from his police car and leaving him paralyzed. Through his numerous months in the hospital, Officer Cortez maintained an exceptional attitude and was ultimately named patient of the year from the hospital for his amazing efforts. Since returning to work, Officer Cortez has worked with the department in developing the Wounded Officer Project and has made numerous speaking engagements and PSA’s on the dangers of drinking and driving. Officer Cortez has not let his injury stop him and continues to work every day towards his recovery and impacting the community in which he lives and serves.


MAX SCHUMACHER - Indiana Heroes Award recipient on May 5

Playoffs: Round 2, Home Game #1 - May 5

In January, 1957 Max Schumacher began his professional baseball career as the Ticket Manager of the Indianapolis Indians. From there he has served as Publicity Director and General Manager and now currently serves as the Chairman of the Board & President of the Indianapolis Indians Baseball Club.

A graduate of both Shortridge High School and Butler University, he served on active duty with the U.S. Army from December 2, 1954, to November 30, 1956, where he was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Fort Sheridan, Illinois.

Schumacher was active in sports and journalistic groups at Shortridge and Butler. He was captain of the baseball team at Shortridge, editor of The Collegian at Butler, and a four-year member of the Butler varsity baseball team.

He is a Past-President of the Indianapolis Downtown Kiwanis Club and a former member and President of the Indianapolis Kiwanis Foundation Board of Directors. He also is a Past-President of the Board of Boys and Girls Clubs of Indianapolis and a past member of the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Schumacher was named a “Sagamore of the Wabash” by Governor Otis R. Bowen in 1980 and by Governor Daniels in 2006. He has also been designated a member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. In 1988, he was a selected recipient of the John H. Johnson President’s Award that is presented to the individual most closely associated with a Minor League Baseball team who “best exemplifies the standards of a complete baseball franchise.” The Boys and Girls Clubs bestowed its “Horatio Alger Award” on him in 1996, and Prevent Blindness Indiana selected him and his wife Judy for their “Person of Vision” award in 1999. He was also a recipient of Butler University’s Robert Todd Duncan Alumni Achievement Award in 2003 and was named to the Butler Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2012, he was inducted into the Shortridge High School Hall of Fame, was designated an “Indiana Living Legend” by the Indiana Historical Society and was presented the James V. Day Good Guy Award by The American Legion.

Following the successful completion of Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis in 1996, Schumacher was voted American Association’s “Executive of the Year,” an award he previously received in 1975. Professional Baseball crowned him as its “King of Baseball” in 1997 for “long-time dedication and service to the game.” Baseball America named Victory Field as the “Best Minor League Ballpark in America” in 1999 and one year later honored the Indianapolis Indians as the Minor League franchise leader for the decade of the 1990s. The Indianapolis Indians, then affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers, won both the International League and Triple-A World Series championships in September of 2000.

For his long-time influence on Baseball in Indiana, he was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in January, 2009. In April, 2011, the Max Schumacher Victory Bell -- that is rung each time the Indians bring home a win -- was added to Victory Field.

The Indians have operated profitably for 39 consecutive years and have rewarded their shareholders with dividends and stock re-purchase offers since 1988. They led Minor League Baseball in fan attendance during the 2013 season.


AUTUMN LETENDRE - Indiana Heroes Award recipient on May 13

Playoffs: Round 2, Home Game #3 - May 13

Autumn Letendre has turned her personal tragedy into triumph with unbelievable inner strength and spirit.

As the owner of the Abby Adams boutique, every purchase that is made helps a military family in some way, with a portion of that purchase benefiting The Golden Star USA Foundation, which Autumn founded shortly after her husband Brian was killed in action while serving his second tour in Iraq.

The Foundation focuses on providing scholarships to military children and extends that mission by providing help to military troops and their families. Letendre said that the families she helps are the very ones that help her get over her own personal grief.

Through her work with the Foundation, Autumn speaks to families all over the country providing support to military families and credits her late husband with what she has been able to give to others. She says that “he taught me not only to raise my flag every day and to teach others to do that, but to also make sure that I am taking care of people beyond myself.”


LIZ NIEMIEC - Indiana Heroes Award recipient on May 18

Playoffs: Round 3, Home Game #1 - May 18

Butler University student Liz Niemiec has made it her mission to grant "little wishes" to young people battling cancer.

Liz started the Little Wish Foundation when she was 17, touched by a teacher's child fighting cancer. "Before he passed away, his little wish was to get a dog, and I saw what huge impact that small thing made in his life," she said. "So, I wanted to do the same for other kids fighting cancer."

The Little Wish Foundation receives a form from each child that gets their name and wish, usually something between $300 and $800 in value. The Little Wish Foundation buys the wish, then wraps and delivers it.

With the help of her sorority sisters, the gifts are delivered to patients at central Indiana children's hospitals.

Niemiec is a finalist in a nationwide Jefferson Awards contest called Lead360 in which young people share their stories about how they give back.

To learn more about the Little Wish Foundation visit www.littlewishfoundation.org



Playoffs: Round 3, Home Game #3 - May 28

EMTs Jason Tibbetts and Katie Warrick were on a non-emergency routine run when it quickly turned into an extremely urgent emergency. Approximately 20 feet in front of them a semitrailer truck slammed into a retaining wall, with the cab of the truck exploding in flames.

Both Warrick and Tibbetts quickly stopped, jumped out of their ambulance and ran to the burning truck. They retrieved a hammer from another motorist who had stopped at the crash scene and busted out the window of the cab and pulled the driver out.

After learning that the driver’s ex-wife was still in the cab of the semi, both Warrick and Tibbetts returned to the flaming semi and pulled her out, ushering both of them to their ambulance to check them out.

While the incident was brief, their quick actions certainly saved the lives of both of the victims they rescued.