Press Releases





National vote underway for all-time greatest heroes – five per state - in 5th Anniversary Volvo for life Awards


Vote for top heroes at; $1 million in financial contributions provided; winner receives Volvo car for life



IRVINE, Calif. (Sept. 5, 2006) – Five extraordinary, everyday heroes from Arizona have been named semi-finalists in the 5th Annual Volvo for life Awards. Volvo is calling on the citizens of Arizona and people coast-to-coast to visit now through Feb. 4, 2007 to view the 250 semi-finalist stories – five per state – and vote for the individual they feel is “America’s Greatest Hometown Hero.” The overall grand winner will receive a $50,000 charitable contribution and a new Volvo every three years for the rest of his or her life.

Who in Arizona would you give a Volvo to? Representing Arizona in this year’s Volvo for life Awards are:

  • Laura Acosta, of Sahuarita, created the Raytheon/Sahuarita Educational Partnership at Sahuarita Intermediate School, a program that prepares participants for the emerging digital age by enhancing learning tracks to emphasize academic rigor, obtaining scholarships and providing valuable direction in career and life opportunities. Acosta’s efforts have supported the growth, development and education of people within the community, and have helped Raytheon achieve distinction within the industry as Cooperative Education Employer of the Year.
  • Terrol Johnson, of Sells, co-founded Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA) to create a culturally vital and sustainable Tohono O’odham community, one of the poorest communities in the United States. Through TOCA, Johnson develops resources and programs that help all community members, even those without formal education or university degrees, play a crucial role in strengthening their community.
  • Rose Mapendo, of Peoria, is an African refugee who for nearly a year was imprisoned and tortured in the Rwandan genocide. After witnessing her husband’s execution and giving birth to premature twins in prison, Mapendo, with her nine children, was freed and relocated to the United States. Mapendo helped to establish Mapendo International, a humanitarian aid organization that works with the U.S. Department of State and the UN to rescue and protect other African refugees. Mapendo currently serves as the organization’s spokesperson and, as a single mother, raises nine children, all of whom attend school and college.
  • Kassandra Okvath, of Gilbert, is a young girl currently battling Neuroblastoma. Rather than letting cancer define her life, Okvath has dedicated herself toward improving the lives of fellow patients by putting together necklaces with colorful beads that each symbolize an aspect of the struggle to overcome cancer. Money raised from the necklaces has helped Okvath donate money to cancer research, sponsor outings for the hospital’s children and their parents, and purchase new toys and games, among others, that help families cope during the most difficult days of hospitalization.
  • Tony Piraino, of Phoenix, founded the Northwest Block Watch Coalition (NWBWC) to help rid the metropolitan Phoenix area of graffiti and take on crime often associated with it. As part of NWBWC, Piraino founded the Graffiti Hotline, a program that provides reward monies given anonymously to citizens willing to call and identify vandals. He also has taken the battle to the streets, canvassing neighborhoods and business areas to paint over graffiti. His hotline has since established more than 1,171 cases and paid out more than $150,000 in rewards, and his “Stealth Team” has painted more than 445,000 square feet of graffiti during the last 11 years.


Now through Feb. 4, individuals will be able to view these and other hero stories and vote for their top heroes at For one week only, Monday, Sept. 4 through Sunday, Sept. 10, the five Arizona heroes’ stories will be featured on the front page of the Web site, joining five heroes from West Virginia. Each week during the voting period, heroes from two states will be featured heroes on the front of the Web site, though individuals can view and vote on their state or any other state’s hero stories within the site at any time.


Once the public vote concludes, the top three vote getters in the categories of safety, quality of life and environment will be named finalists. Then, a panel of distinguished judges – including Hank Aaron, Sen. Bill Bradley, Caroline Kennedy, Maya Lin, Paul Newman, Dr. Sally Ride, Val Kilmer, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and previous Volvo for life Awards top winners – will select winners in each category. Winners receive a $50,000 charitable contribution from Volvo; remaining finalists receive a $25,000 contribution.


On April 4, 2007, Volvo will fly the winning heroes to New York, where Volvo and members of the celebrity-judging panel will honor them at the 5th Annual Volvo for life Awards Ceremony. At the climax of the ceremony, Volvo will reveal which of the three top heroes is also the Grand Award winner of a Volvo vehicle every three years for the rest of his or her life.


“Over the past five years the Volvo for life Awards initiative has received more than 15,000 hero nominations,” said Anne Bélec, president and chief executive officer of Volvo Cars of North America. “All of these heroes demonstrate incredible conscience, care and character. We felt the proper way to mark the fifth year of the Volvo for life Awards would be to highlight the top five heroes from every state in America. Having the public help us select the winning heroes is a truly exciting – and democratic – addition to this year’s program. We look forward to discovering just who ‘America’s greatest hometown hero’ will be.”


To learn more, or to vote for your favorite hero, visit A Spanish version of the site can also be accessed at this address.


# # #


Renee Kelly

Haberman & Associates



Sören Johansson

Volvo Cars of North America



For photos and more information on the Volvo for life Awards visit

Lifestyle, Events/Activities, Special Interests
Descriptions and facts in this press material relate to Volvo Cars' international car range. Described features might be optional. Vehicle specifications may vary from one country to another and may be altered without prior notification.

For information on how Volvo Cars process your personal data in relation to Volvo Cars Global Newsroom click here.

Volvo Cars Newsroom makes use of cookies in order to optimize your user experience on this website. The cookies on the website do not store personal information. For more information, read our Cookies Policy page.