Every Monday morning, Spectrum Bay News 9 airs a segment profiling an individual or small group of individuals in our Bay area communities who give of their own time and resources to improve the lives of others in some meaningful way.
And every year, we try to bring as many of them together in the same room as possible on one day to honor them and thank them, and to highlight a select few of them with awards. We call the event "A Salute to Everyday Heroes."
"It's always a great day, because how often do we get a chance to really thank people who are doing fantastic things in the community, and they’re doing it voluntarily, with their own time, their own money, and they’re helping people, and sometimes solving problems that others haven’t solved," said Alan Mason, Spectrum News Group Vice President - South Region. "It just is humbling for us at Spectrum Bay News 9 to be able to thank them, and what I normally hear from people is, 'Oh, oh, thank you for doing this for us,' but I think no, no, no -- it’s us thanking them.”
Morning anchor Erica Riggins and Everyday Heroes reporter Bill Murphy were both on hand to reunite with the heroes who could attend and bring on stage this year's special honorees.
"It’s the highlight of my year," Riggins said, speaking about the event. "I always feel better when I leave than when I came in after looking at all the heroes – they are role models for the rest of us, we should aspire to be like them."
"I love doing this event," Murphy said. "It’s so unique in our industry to do something like this, and for me personally, to get to visit again with people who I met, and since these are positive stories, and kind of help tell their stories."
The seven special honorees at this year's event were:
- Young Hero of the Year: Kiana Lollis
- Public Service Hero of the Year: Patricia Wingo
- Education Hero of the Year: Victoria Anzalone
- Viewer's Choice Hero of the Year: Jack P. Thompson
- Volunteer Hero of the Year: Ralph Lupton
- Health Advocate Hero of the Year: Dr. John Ellis
- Hero of the Year: Kristine Berry
One and all, this year's honorees shied away from being called "heroes." Instead, they expressed awe and admiration for the company they were keeping that afternoon, and credited others around them for helping them do the work they're doing day in and day out.
"I just know I'm doing a good thing and it makes me feel good," said Kiana Lollis, 11, who received the Young Hero Award.
Riggins had much more glowing praise and admiration for Hollis, who had her cash prize in a 2017 fishing tournament donated to charity, and has since continued to give to those in need.
"[For] a young person to be so selfless, and to be eleven and say, 'I must do something to help,' that stands out and she can be a role model to our young people," Riggins said.
"Everyone has helped me, and I have a wonderful twin sister that has helped me come back to living life, and my organ donors that gave me the gift of life, they’re my heroes," said Kristine Berry, 2017's Hero of the Year.
Berry has logged literally thousands of hours of volunteer service time at Tampa General Hospital and has continued to serve despite having to contend at various times with breast cancer, temporary blindness, and kidney and pancreas transplants.
"[Berry] is such such an absolutely courageous, remarkable, exceptional human being who had so many things thrown at her, and is victorious over all of them," Murphy said of Berry. "So I must say, even though I love them all I’m awful glad she was voted 'Hero of the Year' because she really deserves it."
Jack Thompson, 2017's Viewer's Choice Hero of the Year selected through online voting at baynews9.com earlier this year, called the entire experience "humbling."
"When you sit down and watch what everyone else has done, people you’ve never met before, and you think, ‘Holy cow, I’m mixed in with this crowd?’ I mean, it’s something," Thompson said. "You get goosebumps. I haven't had goosebumps in a long time."
Spectrum Bay News 9 reporter Dalia Dangerfield contributed to this report.