State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Everyday Heroes to be Honored at 4th Fest

by on July 02, 2014 6:30 AM

Anyone can be a hero.

That is anyone can take steps to make a meaningful difference in someone else's life.

Seven everyday heroes – or groups of heroes in some cases – will be honored for their contributions to the community during the Parade of Heroes as part of the 4th Fest celebration on Independence Day.

Marathoners for Medicine, a local group of long distance runners, raises roughly $50,000 a year for Centre Volunteers in Medicine, a non-profit that provides health care services to working uninsured residents in Centre County. The group has raised nearly $500,000 over the last 10 years.

"It is incredibly humbling for our CVIM Marathoners for Medicine runners to be counted as heroes in a community teaming with heroes without capes," says John Domico, speaking on behalf of all CVIM marathoners. "Our community is a better place thanks to volunteerism; from those helping CVIM care for our friends and neighbors to the firefighters at Alpha Fire Company protecting our lives and property and every other citizen that gives back to the community in some way."

Domico says serving CVIM through running has been both a passion and blessing.

"As a child I recall my mother, a nurse, visiting patient's homes and administering care at all hours regardless of whether she was on-the-clock or not," he says. "It wasn't about doing the business of health care to her. It was about doing the right thing. I saw much of this same spirit in the mission of CVIM and decided to get involved in some capacity."

Several of the marathoners ran in the Boston Marathon in 2013 when the bombings occurred at the finish line. Fortunately, no one in the group suffered injuries. Many of the runners returned to the Boston Marathon this year.

"Running a full marathon is truly extraordinary, and the Boston Marathon is the most legendary of marathons. While we may be considered heroes today, in reality we're just runners who want our running to be about more than ourselves," says Domico. "We are able to run 26.2 miles because we enjoy good health, partially supported by access to healthcare. We feel everyone should have the same healthy opportunities, regardless of ability to pay for health care. ... That is why we run for them. They are special people, providing a special service to our community."

Abigail Boyer, an 8-year-old girl from Tyrone, was nominated as a hero for her spirit while fighting against cancer. In May 2013, Abigail was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Her mother, Amy, took her to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for treatment after seeing a surgeon locally.

Doctors were somewhat stunned because typically the disease is not seen in children so young. Abigail is one of roughly 12 young children in the country with this illness. Johns Hopkins started her treatment based on an adult treatment and she has done very well.

She is expected to complete treatment in July. Loved ones nominated Abigail for the courage and strength she has shown.

Alpha Fire Company, a volunteer fire agency led by Fire Chief Jeff Martin, will be recognized for its ongoing heroic efforts, including extinguishing a house fire on a brutally cold winter day.

A homeowner whose residence caught fire Feb. 9 – when it was 8 degrees and snowing – nominated the company for the honor. Within minutes, firefighters responded, extinguished the flames and ventilated the house. Firefighters also helped remove burned furniture and drywall around the fireplace, where the blaze started.

Ellie Ritzman was born Sept. 22, 2000, during an emergency C-section. She suffered meconium aspiration respiratory distress and was air lifted to Janet Weis Children's Hospital at the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. Since then, she has raised money for the Children's Miracle Network through a bake sale she holds each year. At her first bake sale in 2007 Ellie raised $400 and since then has raised more than $40,000. Although Ellie travels mostly by wheelchair and has limited verbal vocabulary, loved ones who nominated her as a hero say, "she shines in a way that can light a room and her desire to help others is contagious."

We'll profile more heroes on Thursday.

The third annual Parade of Heroes will start at the State College Municipal Building at 2 p.m. featuring community heroes nominated by local residents. The parade route will travel through downtown State College, across University Park and end at Dickinson Law School.

This year's theme is "Let Freedom Ring," and bell ringing will be incorporated to the start of the parade. Organizers are asking all churches in the State College area to ring their church bells at 2 p.m. to coincide with the start of the Independence Day event.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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