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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. (January 3, 2007) –– Who would you give a Volvo to? How about activist Humza Kazmi, who dedicates himself to suicide prevention? Or Sophia West, who works to safeguard children from sexual predators? Or Helga West, an attempted murder victim, who created an organization to provide services for victims of crime and their loved ones?


These are just three of the five extraordinary Maryland 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 Maryland would you give a Volvo to? Representing Maryland in this year’s Volvo for life Awards are:

  • Eli Kahn, a 15 year-old cancer survivor from Baltimore, established Cartridges for a Cure, a program that asks businesses, non-profits, individuals and educational organizations to recycle used ink jet and laser printer cartridges. Participants visit Kahn’s Web site, fill out an electronic form and ship cartridges directly to the recycling company. Kahn receives a check each month for recyclable cartridges donated. All proceeds support pediatric oncology research at Johns Hopkins, where Kahn underwent treatment for leukemia. His efforts have raised more than $23,000.
  • Suicide prevention activist Humza Kazmi, of Baltimore, dedicates hundreds of hours to educating his peers about the epidemic and combating its devastating effects. Kazmi researched, designed and printed a series of anti-suicide posters, fliers and leaflets to increase awareness and prevent students from considering suicide. The materials are targeted toward friends of suicidal teens and explain what suicide danger signs to look for and where to call for support. Print materials were supplied to high schools, libraries and grocery stores in the county. His reach will soon extend to universities, youth organizations and religious centers.
  • As a young child, Sophia West, of Beltsville, suffered through years of molestation by a family member. After her son’s attempted suicide on Christmas Eve of his senior year in high school, West learned that his soccer coach molested him at age 11. West felt that she not only had to safeguard her children from any other predators, but also empower all children with the knowledge and awareness for self-protection. In conjunction with the Good Knight Deception Awareness Program, she has become a nationwide lecturer helping kids spot the typical signs that predatory individuals use to lure children into unsafe situations. The Good Knight program hosts groups from around the country at its medieval style “castle,” where students experience interactive adventure quest exhibits to learn basic predator abuse-prevention tactics.
  • In 2002, Jeannette Kendall of Ellicott City founded Success In Style (SIS) to help underprivileged women seeking work. SIS operates its own “Fifth Avenue boutique style” showroom where clients can “shop” for free consultations and professional clothing. SIS provides mostly donated apparel, occasionally purchasing some pieces to supplement their stocks. Each year, SIS provides 200 clients their own individualized, one-hour professional fashion and interview etiquette consultation with a trained volunteer. The clients then receive four outfits, shoes, a handbag, hosiery, undergarments, jewelry, coat, makeup, a haircut and basic job-interview skills coaching—all at no charge. Kendall oversees the program while raising nine children.
  • In 1993, Helga West of Frederick fell victim to an attempted murder while vacationing in Florida. Despite her wounds and the slow pace of the justice system, West mobilized to help law enforcement prosecute the violent criminal who attacked her. So galvanized by the injustices she suffered, West founded Witness Justice, a national grassroots non-profit organization providing services for victims of crime and their loved ones. Witness Justice has provided direct, personalized assistance more than 3,800 victims.


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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