A year after Beth Peacock underwent treatments for breast cancer, she decided it was time to go on her dream vacation — a motorcycle ride to the Grand Canyon.
However, the time leading up to that moment was more like a nightmare until Peacock met someone she now calls her hero.
Peacock, of Joplin, was diagnosed in January 2010 and wasn’t sure who to turn to for advice and support.
“Breast cancer is not in our family, so I had no idea what questions to ask,” she said.
But after her first surgery, she met breast cancer survivor Kristi Seibert, who also is an outreach director with the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks.
Peacock nominated Seibert for an Everyday Hero award that is given by the American Red Cross to those who have a positive impact on their community. Out of more than 30 nominations, Seibert and five others from the Joplin area were presented with awards during a luncheon Friday afternoon.
Peacock said there’s a unique perspective as a wife and a mother when battling the disease.
“You still have to take care of your family, and you still have to coach them through your treatment,” said Peacock, who has two daughters.
“There’s nobody for us to fall apart with,” she said. “We can’t fall apart with our husbands, and we definitely can’t fall apart with our girls because they need us to be strong. So that’s where these friendships come in handy — when you’re going through treatment and you’re sick and you just want to curl up and cry. You can call Kristi, and she would understand.”
“It doesn’t quit at 5 o’clock for her,” Peacock said. “If there’s someone diagnosed that gives her a call at midnight, she’s there. She’ll go to the hospital just to hold someone’s hand.”
Peacock said for Seibert, there was no better title than “hero.”
“You’re a hero, too, Ms. Beth,” Seibert said.
In November, Sgt. Ron Greer with the Granby Police Department was dispatched to a home where a 9-month-old girl was choking on a plastic bottle cap.
About halfway to the house, Greer was informed by dispatch that the girl had gone unconscious.
“At that point, it really kind of scared me,” he said. “I was praying and asking God for his help.”
Within a few minutes, Greer arrived at the home, where he said her great-grandfather was working feverishly to remove the cap that was lodged in the back of the girl’s throat.
Greer said he took over and was able to depress the girl’s tongue and hook the cap.
“It took a good tug to pull it out,” he said.
Then the girl took a small, short breath.
He rolled her over on his arm and began patting her back to help clear anything else from her airway. And when the ambulance arrived, Greer ran the girl outside.
The family considers him a hero, but Greer said it was just part of what people in law enforcement do.
“We’re not just there to arrest people and write traffic tickets,” he said, adding public service is his favorite part of law enforcement.
Greer said he has since been “adopted” into the girl’s family.
“I got her a little Christmas present and went to her first birthday party,” he said. “She’s just a happy, beautiful baby girl.”
John Lair, of Pittsburg, Kan., began working with the Special Olympics for extra credit when he was in college.
Twenty years later, he continues to work with Special Olympians and has created a program called Bike 4 Life, which has helped three athletes lose more than 200 pounds combined.
The athletes and coaches have paired up and together they log how many miles they’ve traveled on a stationary bike. They set goals to bike to different cities, and in the meantime, the athletes research the food the cities are known for and look at the most popular sites.
Lair said once he started working with the athletes, he was taken by the overwhelming sense of happiness from everyone there, and he knew that’s where he wanted to be.
In a nomination letter, a story is shared about one of Lair’s athletes named Chevi Peters. Peters, now 27 years old, wasn’t expected to live beyond age 2.
“He has had 38 surgeries in his life, including receiving a kidney transplant and having a brain tumor removed,” the letter says. “His dream was just to play on a team. Coach Lair has made Chevi’s dream a reality.”
But Lair said he doesn’t think of himself as a hero.
“These guys are the ones who are the heroes,” he said.
On an icy December day, a string of events gave Robin Childs a chance to help a grandmother and her three young grandchildren, including premature twins, stay safe as their rural home was being consumed by a fire.
Childs, who lives near Reeds, received a call that a vehicle had gone through a fence on his cattle farm in a weather-related accident.
After going home to fix the fence, he decided to go ahead and feed the cattle. It was then he saw flames coming from his neighbor’s front porch.
He hurried home, jumped in his car and called 911. The dispatcher asked if anyone was home. No cars were in the driveway, but he started pounding on the front door anyway.
At the same time, the grandmother was getting ready to walk out the door and carry all three grandchildren an eighth of a mile to a shop on their property.
Childs took them back to his home, and got warm clothes for the 4-year-old girl who had left the house barefooted.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Childs said. “God played a role.”
Wade Atkeson and a group from his church in Mount Vernon have built more than 80 ramps for the elderly and disabled at their homes.
“It’s something we started out just wanting a project to do,” Atkeson said. “We never knew there was such a need in the community for that.”
But Atkeson goes beyond just building ramps. He spends his spare time cleaning out gutters and doing other household chores for those who are unable to.
In a nomination letter, Rick Beeny said Atkeson even takes him to church every Sunday in the church van so Beeny can use his power chair.
“He never asks anything from me in return,” Beeny said.
Atkeson said it makes him feel good to help, but said he was taken back a bit when he heard he was nominated.
“I hate to take credit for something a group of guys are doing,” he said.
However, Atkeson said he enjoys doing what he can for others and has made friends along the way.
Following the 2011 Joplin tornado, Jerrod Hogan formed Rebuild Joplin, which recently finished building its 130th home.
He also serves as co-chairman for the Bright Futures Program, and in 2013, Hogan helped organize a cycling tour that raises funds for three areas devastated by disaster.
But, like the other Everyday Heroes, Hogan said he doesn’t deserve all the credit.
“This has little to do with me, and a lot to do with all the people and volunteers and staff that are part of Rebuild Joplin and Bright Futures,” said Hogan, who was nominated by an anonymous person.
“I, like a lot of folks in town, saw outside of the scar,” he said. “I saw lots of resources and lots of needs. So we took the Bright Futures model to tweak it and make the first Rebuild Joplin website, and just connected those needs and resources.”
“It’s cool for our collective group to get recognized here and be side by side with other organizations and individuals who have done some cool stuff,” he said.
Those who are nominated to be an Everyday Hero must live, work or go to school in Jasper, Newton or Barton counties. Nominations may be made for both living and posthumous heroes, and the 2014 awards included acts that occurred in the 2013 calendar year.