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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 20, 2006) –– Here’s a gift idea that won’t cost you a penny. Five extraordinary Ohio 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 Ohio would you give a Volvo to? Representing Ohio in this year’s Volvo for life Awards are:

  • In 1993, Emily Douglas’s grandmother, who spent a lifetime helping her poor Appalachian community, passed away, but left her granddaughter the lifelong inspiration to give to others. Following her grandmother's death, then eleven-year-old Douglas, of Powell, founded Grandma's Gifts to buy Christmas presents for needy children. The program has since expanded and has donated more than $2 million in goods and services to children living in Appalachian Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. In addition to holiday giving, the organization created The Spring Clean Book Drive, which has collected and redistributed more than 650,000 books to establish libraries in shelters, hospital pediatric wards, community centers and schools in disadvantaged areas.
  • Aloys Kamwithi of Cleveland spent his early years poor in Kenya during the country’s war for independence. In 1998, he was able to give back to his home country by opening the Huruma Rescue Mission, a small orphanage for street children of Nairobi. This project led to the development of two schools in rural Kenya. The first, located in Maua, was named St. Hones and the second, located in Meru, was named after Kamwithi in recognition of his extraordinary efforts to help the poor.
  • Patty Mitchell of Athens has dedicated herself to creating and operating an art studio for people with developmental disabilities called “Passion Works.” The studio supports collaborations between people with and without developmental disabilities in the pursuit of making fine art. The jewelry, tile and sculptures that are created are sold with a portion of the profits going back to the disabled artists. An income gives the artists a chance to live more independently and express their creativity. The studio employs three established artists, three production aides and 35 artists with disabilities. In the past decade, the studio has generated more than $500,000 in sales.
  • In 1998, Karen Shirk of Xenia founded 4 Paws for Ability, an organization that trains and provides service animals for those who cannot obtain them through other outlets. Shirk, who suffers from a rare neuromuscular disease, wanted to make a difference in the lives of people like herself, who, for various reasons ranging from too much ability to too little, are turned down by the traditional service dog agencies. The program has placed more than 100 service animals with disabled adults and children.
  • James Sutman of Youngstown started a daylong art program for mentally challenged individuals in his area. The program gives people the chance to make pottery and artwork to then sell at craft fairs in the community. Sutman also established a nonprofit arm of his agency called Golden String, providing additional activities for the mentally challenged. In the short span of five years, he also has established nine group homes and a respite service for families of mentally challenged children.


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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