The Braveheart Awards is an extraordinary event honoring everyday heroes. It brings together a community to recognize those who go above and beyond in bettering those around them. These people have shown courage and compassion, while bravely defying the odds to make a difference – we call these selfless people Bravehearts.
Joan Benoit Samuelson is a trailblazer in women’s sports and an icon in the running world. She was the winner of the very first women’s Olympic Marathon held at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. On top of winning the Gold, Joan has won the Boston Marathon twice and holds the record at the Boston Marathon and Olympics for the fastest time by an American woman. She started her TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race in 1998 to benefit children's charities in Maine. Almost 15 years later, the race attracts over 6,000 runners and over 10,000 spectators. Joanie continues to be a dominant figure and a role model in the running world and in women's athletics.
Jan Aarsheim, a resident of Marion, took it upon herself to help those in need all the way in Indiana after last year’s tornadoes. After seeing the devastation, she took it upon herself to organize a relief effort, flying her own personal plane 4 1/2 hours. With the help of Goodwill and her Facebook friends, Jan was able to donate brand new children’s clothes as well as $4,000 in gift certificates and checks to the Red Cross.
Steve Nelson is a true New England Sports Legend. He was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame and is credited with helping the Patriots reach Super Bowl 20 against the Chicago Bears. After his retirement from the NFL, Steve became the coach and Athletic Director for Curry College, one of the nation’s leading schools for students with language-based learning difficulties. He is actively involved in the Mosi Tatupu Memorial Scholarship Foundation and the Seven Hills Foundation, both of which work to support those with significant challenges, both on and off the field.
Bob Mercer, owner of Bob's Sea and Ski in New Bedford, was nominated by the Special Olympics of Massachusetts because of his years of service to their organization. For over twenty years, he has been running the annual Ski and Snowboard Challenge fundraiser to benefit the Special Olympics. This day of skiing and snowboarding has taught many generations the importance of giving through sports and recreation.
Arissa and Daynara Underhill work tirelessly for their community. At only 14 and 16 years of age, these sisters have already assisted the Reach out and Read Literacy Foundation, donated to numerous charities such as Camp Sunshine, Locks of Love and Boston Medical Center, given monthly support to several food pantries, and have adopted a physically and mentally handicapped dog. Additionally, these young women have volunteered for the Cape Cod Baseball League and Wareham Gatemen as well as many of the Wareham Crossing charitable events.
Chris Herren is an inspiration in how he has turned adversity into triumph. His basketball skills led him to the NBA where he played for the Denver Nuggets and the Boston Celtics. Despite his successes on the court, Chris struggled with substance abuse which ultimately ended his basketball career. Fortunately, Chris has been sober since August 1st of 2008 and today travels across the country speaking to students about the consequences of drug use. His nonprofit, The Herren Project, works to aid families that have been affected by addiction. Chris and his organization continue to educate students, support families and inspire people who need help beating addiction.
Diane Whittaker, a Wareham resident of 25 years began as a veterinary technician. After 9/11 Diane volunteered her skills in assisting with the care of search and rescue dogs. Her involvement with the “Vest a Dog” program began in 2008 – at first volunteering and eventually taking on a much more prominent role. Diane’s largest contribution is her creation of a K-9 First Aid Kit, working tirelessly to ensure that these kits are not only compact, yet complete, but also cost-effective. Locally, Diane has also worked with the Wareham Police department, helping them to receive grants as well as a bite suit.
Rick and Dick Hoyt, an inspirational father-son team, have competed in over 1,000 athletic events including 6 Ironman competitions despite Rick’s physical challenges. Rick, a Boston University graduate, has competed alongside his 72 year old father for the past 35 years. This dynamic duo is a Boston Marathon legend, having completed the race 30 times. Dick now travels the country educating on disability awareness and spreading the team motto “Yes You Can.”
Joe Andruzzi played for the New England Patriots from 2000 to 2005 in which time he helped the team win three Superbowl rings. But it is his work off the field that has brought him to Braveheart hero status. In 2007, Joe was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s lymphoma and received aggressive chemotherapy at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Joe admirably fought the disease with strength and courage and is now in remission. Joe and his wife Jen have started the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which is tackling cancer’s impact by providing financial assistance for patients and their families as well as funding pediatric brain cancer research.
The Wild Vikings Basketball Team is a group of athletes who are near and dear to the heart of Wareham Special Olympics. Teammates Kayla Bumpus, Tasmin Collum, Kyle Webb, Cody Akell, Tim Graves, Malcom Monterio, Zach Cacciolfi, Tim Spellman, Liam Tierney, and Tom Faulkner played their hardest throughout the Massachusetts state championships, earning themselves a gold medal. They won in dramatic fashion during the final seconds of the championship game against the undefeated Mid-Cape All-Stars.
Click on recipient’s name to read full biography
Click on recipient’s name to read full biography