VOLVO NAMES AMERICA'S TOP HOMETOWN HEROES
Three Winners Announced in 5th Annual Volvo for life Awards
Celebrity Judges to Honor Winners at April 5 Volvo for life Awards Ceremony in the heart of New York City, Grand Award Winner Will Receive a Volvo Car for Life
IRVINE, Calif. (March 22, 2007) -- A Portland, Ore. mother who dedicates her life to helping overseas victims of domestic abuse; a Baltimore, Md. teenage cancer survivor committed to the environment and pediatric oncology research and an African refugee and widowed mother of ten, now living in Peoria, Ariz., who fights to protect and rescue other refugees. These three individuals - united by their conscience, care and character - are the top three winning heroes named today in the 5th Annual Volvo for life Awards.
Paula Lucas, Eli Kahn and Rose Mapendo each will receive a $50,000 contribution to the charity of their choice and will be honored at the Volvo for life Awards Ceremony at the world famous Cipriani's in the heart of New York City on April 5. During the ceremony one overall grand award winner will be named "America's Greatest Hometown Hero" and presented with a new Volvo every three years for the rest of his or her life.
The Volvo for life Awards (www.volvoforlifeawards.com), launched in 2002, is the largest-ever national search for and celebration of everyday heroes in the categories of Safety, Quality of Life and Environment. Volvo Cars of North America provides $1 million in awards and contributions in honor of heroes.
This year, in celebration of the program's 5th anniversary, Volvo selected 255 heroes who have been nominated in the Volvo for life Awards since the annual program began. For the first time ever, the company invited the American public to visit www.volvoforlifeawards.com and vote for their favorite hero.
"We received hundreds of thousands of votes from across the country and are thrilled by the response of the American public to our program this year," said Anne Bélec, president and chief executive officer for Volvo Cars of North America. "As well as truly embodying our core values of conscience, care and character, each one of our finalists has overcome great adversity to help others. We're honored that we have the opportunity to support the work of these truly incredible heroes and now look forward to honoring Paula, Eli and Rose at our awards ceremony. We also want to acknowledge again the heroic efforts of our six other finalists, as well as the work of the other 246 semi-finalists that were involved in our program this year."
The American public selected nine finalists, three in each category of Safety, Quality of Life and Environment. A distinguished panel of judges-including Hank Aaron, Sen. Bill Bradley, Caroline Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Val Kilmer, Maya Lin, Paul Newman, Dr. Sally Ride and past Volvo for life grand award prize winners-then selected the three category winners, who are:
Safety: Paula Lucas of Portland, Ore.,
For the majority of her married life, Lucas was a scared mother living overseas trying to protect herself and her children from her abusive husband. With no resources available or people she could confide in to help bring her family to safety, Lucas didn't know where to turn. When Lucas and her children returned back home to the United States after fleeing the Middle East, she discovered she was still on her own. No government official to help her repatriate, no one to help her fight for her custodial rights, no one to give official advice or provide financial and emotional support. So, in 1999, Lucas, 48, took matters into her own hands and founded the American Domestic Violence Crisis Line.
Today, the crisis line acts as a lifeline for victims of domestic violence, especially those living overseas. In 2006 alone the program received 1,281 crisis calls and emails and helped 258 families in 47 countries. It also offers additional services, including anti-domestic violence advocacy, intervention, case management, safety planning, information, referrals, danger to safety transportation back to the United States, payment of legal retainers and transitional housing.
"I feel it is my duty to do what I can to help others out of situations that I've been in," said Lucas. "I know I've been given a second chance - I am one of the lucky ones. Being named a finalist in the Volvo for life Awards is amazing. I couldn't believe it. I am so grateful."
To date, Lucas' organization has not received government funding and is operating with money from donations, grants and fund-raising efforts. Lucas plans to invest her $50,000 into the crisis line. "We really, really need it. Throughout the years, the funding has stayed the same, but the demand and operations have increased considerably."
Quality of Life: Rose Mapendo of Peoria, Ariz.,
Mapendo was imprisoned and tortured by Congolese soldiers for more than a year. After witnessing her husband's execution and giving birth to premature twins in prison, she, with nine of her children, was freed and relocated to the U.S.. One of her daughters, now 17, was left behind and is yet to be reunited with her family. Had it not been for an aid worker who noticed how weak Mapendo's twin newborn boys were, Mapendo may also still be in Africa, since she and her family were not on any official refugee lists.
Once safely established in the U.S., Mapendo helped found Mapendo International, a humanitarian aid organization that works with the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations to identify and assist Africa's forgotten and at-risk refugees, those who are at risk of falling through the cracks of humanitarian aid efforts. The most endangered are orphans, widows, torture and rape victims, HIV-positive refugees and targets of genocide. Mapendo International helps these people through its medical clinic in Kenya and through a rescue operations initiative, identifying at-risk individuals, families and groups of refugees and working to get them out of danger.
"I was thrilled when I heard I was a finalist," said Mapendo. "Bringing more attention to Mapendo International's mission is very important, and the $50,000 from Volvo will really help. That amount of money will help a lot of refugees live a better life."
Mapendo currently serves as the organization's spokesperson and, as a single mother, raises nine children, all of whom attend school and college. Mapendo was nominated for the Volvo for life Awards by actress Susan Sarandon, an advisory board member of Mapendo International.
Environment: Eli Kahn of Baltimore,Md.,
Kahn was named a finalist in the Volvo for life Awards in honor of his work as creator of an ink jet and laser printer cartridge recycling program which has raised more than $30,000 for pediatric oncology research.
What began as Kahn's goal to raise $1,800 for pediatric oncology research evolved into Cartridges for a Cure, a large-scale fundraising program that asks businesses, non-profits, individuals and educational organizations to recycle used ink jet and laser printer cartridges. Participants in Cartridges for a Cure visit Kahn's Web site, www.cartridgesforacure.com, fill out an electronic form and ship cartridges directly to the recycling company. Kahn receives a check each month for recyclable cartridges donated. All proceeds support pediatric oncology research at Johns Hopkins, where Kahn underwent treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia. Although Kahn has been in remission since age six, his desire to help others fight cancer continues to thrive along side Cartridges for a Cure.
"The Volvo for life Award means so much to me," Kahn said. "My cartridge recycling business started out as a simple way to give back to the hospital that did so much for me as a child. Now, Cartridges for a Cure is on a roll. I hope the program continues to grow and benefit from this incredible honor from Volvo."
The 5th Annual Volvo for life Awards will be hosted by actor Benjamin Bratt, with scheduled appearances by Hank Aaron, Val Kilmer, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Dr. Sally Ride, Maya Lin and Sen. Bill Bradley. The evening will also feature musical performances by Swedish sensation, The Sound Track of Our Lives, Kaissa and The Tommy Castro Band. The six remaining finalists in the initiative will receive a donation of $25,000 to the charities of their choice. The remaining finalists are:
Quality of Life:
In addition to the three category winners, Volvo also named 15-year-old Samita Mohanasundaram of Nashua, N.H., the winner of the Alexandra Scott Butterfly Award. The award was created by Volvo Cars of North America to honor young heroes who do the extraordinary in the areas of Safety, Quality of Life and Environment in the name of Alexandra Scott, a Volvo for life Awards winner from Wynnewood, Pa., who passed away at age eight from cancer. She raised more than $1 million for pediatric cancer research through lemonade sales and other fundraising activities. Parents Jay and Elizabeth Scott continue promoting Alex's cause and raising money for pediatric cancer research through their foundation, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.
More than half of Mohanasundaram's lifetime has been dedicated to helping others. Her volunteering efforts range from collecting and donating thousands of books to impoverished children in India to organizing a card-signing drive for Florida's hurricane-affected residents. Mohanasundaram will be recognized by the Scotts at the Volvo for life Awards Ceremony and will receive a $25,000 contribution to the charity of her choice.
For more information on the Volvo for life Awards and to view this year's nominees' and finalists' stories, visit www.volvoforlifeawards.com.
Haberman & Associates
Volvo Cars of North America
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