Shirley Karduck looked out from a sleek, silver sports car at crowds of people gathered along College Avenue for the third annual 4th Fest Parade of Heroes. Behind her, crews pulled along huge red, white and blue balloon animals and the sound of horse hooves echoed off the blacktop.
Back on April 22, she looked out a different scene beside a State College road: a man who had crashed his car after going into cardiac arrest while driving. Karduck, a registered nurse from Boalsburg, “made an immediate gut decision” and performed CPR on Bryan Musser of Centre Hall – ultimately saving his life.
Though Karduck hadn’t thought of herself as a hero, she found herself nominated to be honored in this year’s parade. For the past three years, the parade has paid tribute to unspoken heroes from around the state.
Some heroes, like Ellie Ritzman of Millerstown, were honored for the inspiration they bring to others. Ellie, a young girl with a gentle smile, was born with the neuromuscular condition cerebral palsy, which requires her to use a computer to help coordinate her muscles.
After watching Ellie’s strength in battling her condition, her parents, Derek and Diana Ritzman, started Ellie’s Bake Sale to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network. In the bake sale’s seventh and most recent year, Derek Ritzman says Ellie helped raise over $11,000 to benefit the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville.
“It’s a very humbling experience to be here,” Diana Ritzman says. “Ellie is really excited to be in the parade.”
As the parade progressed through downtown State College, Ellie glowed with joy and smiled at the gathered crowds.
Randy Murphy of State College came out to watch the parade and support those being honored by their community. He says he wasn’t sure what to expect, and was impressed by the number of participants in the parade.
In addition to the community heroes being honored, dance and cheerleading companies, baton corps, roller derby teams, horses, pageant queens and fire trucks paraded through downtown State College, tossing candy to the excited crowds of families lined along the streets.
Todd Plummer, a leader with Boyscout Troop 31 in State College, pulled along a red, white and blue balloon with help from other members of his troop. He says he feels proud to help “instill a sense of togetherness in the community through events like this.”
While Plummer says the Fourth of July is an important time to remember the military heroes who have served our country and enabled our independence, we must also remember “the heroes like firefighters and police officers who do a great job of protecting us everyday.”
Jeff Martin of the Alpha Volunteer Fire Company says its important to honor the heroes in one’s community, but was surprised to learn that the entire Alpha fire company had been nominated.
“I don’t know if we really fall into that category,” Martin says. “We do this because we love it and it helps the people of our community. We haven’t done anything out of the ordinary.”
Bob Timulak drove from Somerset County to celebrate Independence Day at 4th Fest for the first time. He says “a hero is someone who goes above and beyond to help their fellow man,” regardless of their background or profession.
“This is a really nice parade,” Timulak says. “I think it’s a great thing that they’re doing this for these people.”
Karduck says she takes pride knowing that she made a difference in someone’s life, but insists she only did what anyone would have done in that situation.
“Anyone can do it,” she says.
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