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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. (December 11, 2006) – Here’s a gift idea that won’t cost you a penny. Five extraordinary North Carolina heroes have been named as semi-finalists in the 5th Anniversary Volvo for life Awards – Volvo’s annual search for hometown heroes across America. And they need your vote.


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. A grand prizewinner will receive $50,000 and a Volvo for life.


So, who in North Carolina would you give a Volvo to? Representing North Carolina in this year’s Volvo for life Awards are:

  • Monica Caison of Wilmington founded the non-profit CUE Center for Missing Persons, which helps families find missing loved ones long after law enforcement and the media have forgotten or given up on cases. Caison embodies the spirit of TV’s Cold Case, retracing steps, going door to door and working with media and law enforcement to find missing persons. CUE has helped more than 6,000 families in what is often the most confusing and desperate times of their lives.
  • In 1993, Rick Dove of New Bern became the first Riverkeeper in North Carolina, helping protect the Neuse River basin and educate people about the importance of preserving and protecting water quality and the environment. He has since taken an active role in assisting nine other river groups establish similar programs and has spearheaded actions against polluters, including city sewage systems, auto junkyards, construction sites, agricultural and animal farm operations.
  • Kendall Phills, of Charlotte, suffered a terrible loss when her late husband, former NBA Charlotte Hornets star Bobby Phills, died in a nationally publicized street racing accident in 2000. His death galvanized Phills to become a public advocate for safe driving. Phills created the initiative “Be Safe-Drive Smart,” which has shown thousands of young drivers in Charlotte-area high schools how to make smarter driving choices and the dangerous consequences of speeding, illegal racing, unsupervised stunt driving and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
  • Nine-year-old Tyler Strasser of Charlotte, started his mission to help others at the tender age of three. In just over six years, Strasser has collected and distributed more than 125,000 toys and Christmas gifts for children with special needs, AIDS and for kids whose parents the military has deployed overseas. He started the “Breaking The Bread Ministry,” to provide produce, deli items and meats from local grocers to the hungry children of the community. Strasser has also collected 9,000 pounds of donated clothes for shelters, helping thousands of disadvantaged people. In addition, every year Strasser throws a Christmas party for the children he helps at which he plays music and passes out gifts to each child.
  • At only 11 years of age, Suzie Tipton of Hendersonville, began changing the lives of special-needs children. Tipton suffers from cerebral palsy and her disability inspired her to start "Suzie's Closet," a program encouraging children who outgrow their special needs equipment to donate it to a "loan closet." Items such as walkers, crutches and special eating utensils are repaired and cleaned for new users then given to other special-needs children or adults who cannot afford the high-priced, often difficult-to-find equipment. When they outgrow the equipment, they return it to "Suzie's Closet" for others.


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.


Volvo and members of the celebrity-judging panel will honor the winning heroes on April 5, 2007 at the 42nd St. Cipriani during the 5th Annual Volvo for life Awards Ceremony. There, 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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Carol Schuler,

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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