Since last July Volvo has accepted 4,341 nominations for its Volvo For Life awards that honors unsung heroes in the categories of safety, quality of life and environment. The company assembled a panel of celebrity judges that includes Hank Aaron, Sir Richard Branson, Val Kilmer (huh?) and Paul Newman, among others, who then narrowed the nominees down to three category winners. And the winners are...

Safety: Dr. Gary Slutkin – credited with creating highly successful violent behavior prevention programs based on his experience combating the HIV/AIDS crisis in Uganda. The programs have been put to use in such places where gang violence is most likely to occur and often succeed in preventing such violence before it takes place.

Quality of Life: Dr. Ingida Asfaw (pictured) – Ethopian-born cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon credited with creating the Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association, a network of 500 medical and non-medical professional who donate their time and talents in Ethiopia where there is one physician for every 100,000 citizens.

Environment: Jane Williams – former science teacher credited with forming the California Communities Against Toxins group, the oldest community based environmental network that has successfully mobilized a diverse group of over 70 localized groups to prevent the installation of incinerators, landfills and industrial facilities in areas where the health of the community would be compromised.

Each of the three finalists will receive a $50,000 contribution to the charity of their choice on behalf of Volvo and one grand prize winner will be announced on April 12th at a ceremony in New York City. The grand prize is a doozie - a new Volvo every three years for the rest of the winner’s life.

Check out the full press release after the jump.

[Source: Volvo]



VOLVO NAMES AMERICA’S TOP HOMETOWN HEROES

Three Winners Announced in Fourth Annual Volvo for life Awards; Celebrity Judges—Including Val Kilmer and Senator Bill Bradley—to Honor Winners at April 12 Volvo for life Awards Ceremony in the Rainbow Room, New York City; One Hero Will Receive a Volvo Car for Life
 
NEW YORK CITY (March 31, 2006) – A Chicago epidemiologist creating highly successful violent behavior prevention programs, an Ethiopian-born Detroit heart surgeon who organized 500 to address his homeland’s medical crises and a Californian who unites business, political and social leaders to keep communities toxin-free are the top three winning heroes named today in the Fourth Annual Volvo for life Awards.

     The heroes, Dr. Gary Slutkin, Dr. Ingida Asfaw and Jane Williams—who each receive a $50,000 contribution to the charity of their choice—will now go to New York City, where on April 12 they will be honored in the Volvo for life Awards Ceremony at the Rainbow Room. There, one overall grand winner will be unveiled as “America’s Greatest Hometown Hero” and be presented with a new Volvo every three years for the rest of his or her life.

     The Volvo for life Awards (www.volvoforlifeawards.com) is the largest-ever national search for and celebration of everyday heroes in the categories of safety, quality of life and environment, with Volvo Cars of North America providing $1 million in awards and contributions in honor of heroes.

     The fourth annual program, launched in July 2005, called for individuals nationwide to visit www.volvoforlifeawards.com and nominate an unsung hometown hero they know in one of three categories: safety, quality of life or environment. Volvo received 4,341 nominations representing all 50 states.

     Volvo selected three finalists in each of the three categories. A distinguished panel of judges—including Hank Aaron, Senator Bill Bradley, Caroline Kennedy, Sir Richard Branson, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Val Kilmer, Maya Lin, Paul Newman and Dr. Sally Ride—then selected the three category winners, who are:

Safety: Dr. Gary Slutkin, 55, Chicago, Ill.
Preventing violent thoughts as a crime deterrent? Dr. Slutkin thinks it’s possible, and based on community involvement techniques he refined while combating the HIV/AIDS crisis in Uganda, he’s created a system that just may prove it is. He founded “CeaseFire,” an organization and philosophy that can predict where in neighborhoods gang-related violence will most likely occur, and who is most at-risk. He then dispatches a team of highly skilled, and paid, counselors (including many former gang members) to prevent violence often moments before it occurs. Their mission: identify people having violent thoughts, then counsel them out of their anger. And, when a shooting occurs, he has a team of local church members, prominent neighborhood individuals, neighborhood associations and others to work directly with all individuals in that neighborhood to respond to the violence. This door-to-door, street-by-street violence prevention program has helped create a 50 to 75 percent drop in shootings in some neighborhoods over five years, and it’s soon to be rolled out in other cities nationwide.

Quality of Life: Dr. Ingida Asfaw, 68, Detroit, Mich.
In 1958, 16-year-old Asfaw left his native Ethiopia to study medicine in the United States. At the time, knowing his homeland possessed no formal medical schools and no semblance of a national healthcare program, Dr. Asfaw promised himself he would become a doctor and return to Ethiopia with healing hands. Now, a half-century later, Dr. Asfaw has kept true to his promise, becoming a world-renowned cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon based in Detroit and creating the Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association (ENAHPA), an international network of more than 500 medical and non-medical professionals who donate their time and talents in Ethiopia, a country where the ratio of physicians to population is 1 per 100,000. Since 2001, Dr. Asfaw has led ENAHPA on annual medical missions in efforts to address his homeland’s “profound healthcare crisis.” To date they have distributed anti-retroviral drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS, performed Ethiopia’s first open-heart surgery and created a child-sponsorship program to support children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. In addition, Dr. Asfaw and ENAHPA have delivered more than 10,000 textbooks and journals to professionals and students throughout Ethiopia in the fields of medicine, law, engineering, nursing, pharmacology and social work.

Environment: Jane Williams, 47, Rosamond, Calif.
In the early 1990’s Williams felt a calling. Concerned by antiquated environmental regulations, the former science teacher dedicated herself to mobilizing marginalized communities against unnecessary industrial pollution. Based on the philosophies of her mother, prominent environmentalist Norma “Stormy” Gail Williams, she formed the California Communities Against Toxins (CCAT), a collective of more than 70 localized groups working to curb pollution in their regions. By building the CCAT network on non-traditional alliances, Williams has been able to unite communities through a collaborative and cooperative social infrastructure, avoiding the competition and in-fighting that dooms many environmental collectives. As a result, today CCAT is the oldest community-based environmental network in existence, having aligned groups as diverse as Native American tribes, environmentalists, business owners, school boards and elected officials against pollution in their communities for more than 17 years. Led by Williams, members of CCAT have successfully stopped incinerators, landfills, industrial facilities and nuclear waste dumps from being built in communities where the health of children and community members would have been compromised.

     “We are truly inspired by the hope and dedication that all of our nominees personify and appreciate the difficult task our judges face in selecting category winners from our pool of outstanding finalists,” said Anne Bélec, president and chief executive officer for Volvo Cars of North America. “We are grateful for their time and insight and now look forward to honoring Gary, Ingida and Jane at our awards ceremony and recognizing the work they’ve done to improve the safety, quality of life and environment of thousands of people worldwide. We also applaud the efforts of our six other finalists, as well as the efforts of the more than 4,300 heroes who were nominated for our program this year.”

     The Fourth Annual Volvo for life Awards will be hosted by actor Benjamin Bratt, with appearances by Hank Aaron, Val Kilmer, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Dr. Sally Ride, Maya Lin, Senator Bill Bradley, and Hope Bevilhymer, last year’s Volvo for life Awards grand winner. The evening will also feature musical performances by Avril Lavigne and the Harlem Gospel Choir, among others. The six remaining finalists in the initiative will receive a donation of $25,000 to the charities of their choice. The remaining finalists are:

Safety:
•Billy Kemp, a 40-year-old Franklin, Tenn., high school teacher who after the deaths of three students in auto accidents—with none wearing seatbelts—created “Be in the Click,” a highly effective, grassroots seatbelt awareness campaign that has reached 65,000 students.
•Sophia West, a 44-year-old Beltsville, Md., mom who as a child was sexually abused and as an adult discovered her son had been as well—and has since become a national anti-sexual predator spokesperson.

Quality of Life:
•Jeannette Kendall, a 47-year-old, Ellicott City, Md., top fashion designer who now devotes her skills and passion to providing low-income, job-seeking women with professional business attire and interviewing skills for gaining entry in to the workplace.
•Eva Payne, a 30-year-old Santa Clarita, Calif., idealist who has created from scratch a summer camp of hope and dreams for kids infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Environment:
•Oliver Barton, 42, of New Haven, Conn., who gave up a career in medicine to promote sustainability in his college alma mater’s needy neighborhoods by building a massive environmental charter school and urban farm.
•Jami Harper, 17 of Grand Island, Neb., whose town’s tainted water supply turned the teenager into an environmental educator for communities nationwide.

Alexandra Scott Butterfly Award Winner Unveiled
In addition to the three category winners, Volvo also named 12-year-old Grace Farnan of South Hamilton, Mass., the winner of the Second Annual Alexandra Scott Butterfly Award. The award celebrates Alexandra Scott, a Volvo for life Awards winner from Wynnewood, Pa., who passed away at age eight from cancer. She raised more than $1 million for pediatric cancer research through lemonade sales and other fundraising activities. Parents Jay and Elizabeth Scott continue promoting Alex’s cause and raising money for pediatric cancer research through their foundation, Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

     When Grace's maternal grandmother peacefully passed away while in hospice care two years ago, she wanted to give something back to the people who helped care for her grandmother. Grace became the youngest volunteer for HNS, which provides compassionate support to individuals and families facing life-threatening illnesses. She has collected more than 225 new picture frames for HNS clients to keep photos of loved ones close at hand. Enlisting her own Girl Scout troop to help make guest books for patients, Grace has helped provide the means for families, visitors and staff to write encouraging notes and messages that a HNS client can keep at his or her bedside. Families of dementia patients particularly appreciate the guest books, as it enables them know who has visited their loved one. Grace’s efforts have helped provide more than 500 guest books for HNS.

     Grace will be recognized by the Scotts at the Volvo for life Awards Ceremony and will receive a $25,000 contribution to the charity of her choice.

     For more information on the Volvo for life Awards and to view this year’s nominees’ and finalists’ stories, visit www.volvoforlifeawards.com.

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