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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. (October 16, 2006) - Who would you give a Volvo to? How about Billy Kemp, who created the “Be in the Click” initiative to encourage seatbelt usage among high school students? Or Margaret Doumitt, who founded the STAR Center, which serves as an assistive technology and advocacy group to children and adults with special needs? Or Terry Richard, who provides dress clothes to homeless men for job interviews?


These are just three of the five extraordinary Tennessee heroes named as semi-finalists in the 5th Anniversary Volvo for life Awards – Volvo’s annual search for hometown heroes across America. This year, in honor of the Awards’ 5th anniversary, Volvo selected the top five heroes from every state in America and is asking the American public to visit to vote for their favorites now through February 4, 2007.


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

  • As a mother raising two children with special needs, Margaret Doumitt, of Jackson, found that she had little or no access to options in education and services that addressed her children’s situation. So, in 1988, she founded the STAR Center as an assistive technology and advocacy group to serve children and adults with special needs and their families. Over the past 18 years, STAR Center has helped local and state leaders in identifying gaps in services for individuals with special needs and developing programs where none existed. Starting with an all-volunteer staff in a donated schoolroom, Doumitt’s leadership has expanded the STAR Center to include two facilities and a staff of 50 highly specialized professionals. STAR Center has become one of the largest assistive technology centers in the nation and many of the programs have won acclaim as national models.
  • In 1997, Billy Kemp began teaching English at Centennial High School in Franklin. During the school’s first three years, it lost a student each year to a car crash. None wore seat belts. With only 61 percent of his school’s students wearing seatbelts, Billy knew that to prevent it from happening again, it would require a highly focused, attention-grabbing effort. Kemp’s “Be in the Click” focuses on getting whole communities –– not just schools –– involved in changing the way students view wearing seatbelts. Kemp taps area organizations and businesses to provide incentives and rewards for students who wear seatbelts. Assemblies are held; signage adorns the school campuses. Messages are infused in curriculum and students who pledge to wear seatbelts throughout the year have opportunities to win prizes. Seat belt usage at his school increased to 87 percent. Today, “Be in the Click” has spread to 65,000 students across Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kansas.
  • Barbara Brown, of Kingsport, took it upon herself to see that a local water main, nicknamed "Old Faithful," was retired nearly two years ahead of schedule. The 63-year-old water main flooded five times in ten years, damaging countless businesses and residential properties. Those business and homeowners received no compensation for the water damage. Brown and her neighbors persuaded city leaders to reimburse residents for flooding damages and address other quality of life issues related to the water main. Replacement of the decaying water pipes with a new $3 million line commenced less than nine months after she began her effort.
  • A master barber, Juanita Lewis, of Memphis, cuts hair, shaves and gives pedicures to the confined and elderly members of her church. She also visits theirs homes to bathe, feed and clean for them. When the resources are available, she brings food, supplies and clothing. Her assistance allows numerous aging Memphis residents to continue living in their own homes where they are most comfortable.
  • Terry Richard, of Nashville, provides homeless men with dress clothes for job interviews. Richard works tirelessly to solicit donations from clothing companies, as well as miscellaneous help from private companies. He also works to provide motivational support and job training to men who so desperately need a helping hand in the job market.


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. Having the public help us select the winning heroes is a truly exciting – and democratic – addition to this year’s program.”


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


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Kim McMartin

Haberman & Associates



Sören Johansson

Volvo Cars of North America



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

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