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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 18, 2006) –– Here’s a gift idea that won’t cost you a penny. Five extraordinary New York 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 New York would you give a Volvo to? Representing New York in this year’s Volvo for life Awards are:

  • On May 18, 2000, Abdul Hafiz’s 16-month baby brother, Ibrahim, fell to his death from the fire escape of his family’s Staten Island fourth-floor apartment. Today, Hafiz is determined to prevent similar tragedies, leading a campaign to prod politicians to pass a new law in New York that would require special safety gates on fire escape windows. Hafiz has met with heads of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and obtained a grant for $500,000 to install these gates, as well as two computer labs and security cameras, in Hafiz’s housing complex.
  • After losing his home, family and job as a factory manager in Mexico due to alcoholism, Jose Morales of Elmhurst, entered Alcoholics Anonymous in 1982 and started his path to sobriety. In 1986, Morales came to the United States and was struck by the high concentration of alcoholics living on the streets of New York and the lack of low-cost treatment services conducted in Spanish. Morales joined forces with four Mexican friends from recovery in 1991 and opened a shelter, J24 to offer substance abusers a 24-hour-a-day haven to begin recovery. J24 has helped more than 3,000 members of the Spanish-speaking community in Queens recover from alcohol and substance abuse.
  • Six years ago, Laurie Dooley of East Amherst lost her friend Nina Sacco to breast cancer. Soon after, Dooley developed a program in Sacco’s honor to improve the lives of breast cancer survivors. Through exercise and group support twice a week, program members strive to live full and active lives, despite the physical and psychological challenges. More than sixty women between the ages of 33 and 76 from all areas of Western New York belong to the group. Team members are in various stages of cancer treatment, some recently diagnosed, some having just completed treatment and others in remission.
  • Maria Telesca, of Long Island, develops educational programs to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Telesca, who has achondroplast dwarfism, established New York’s first Skeletal Dysplasia Clinic to treat children with dwarfism and related conditions. She also created Arts in Education Workshops to boost disabled kids’ self-esteem through music and theater. Telesca’s efforts also include creating a scholarship fund for families with dwarf children, which enables them to visit the country’s leading medical experts. Additional programs include the DisABILITY Awareness Training program, which creates opportunities for business executives to mentor and hire people with disabilities and the NO TEASE program, which addresses violence and bullying issues in schools.
  • Thirty years ago John Rugge of Glens Falls became a medical pioneer in the Adirondack and Lake George region, where virtually no medical facilities existed. Rugge now operates the Hudson Headwaters Health Network, a non-profit network of 11 community health centers that provide care to residents, visitors and travelers within 2,400 square miles of the southeastern Adirondacks. The network also trains physician assistants for the facilities.


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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Kim McMartin

Haberman & Associates



Sören Johansson

Volvo Cars of North America



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

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