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Past Heroes – 2001

RARE Everyday Hero Stories


2001 - Marilee Bylsma
2001 - Kevin Degen
Administrative Clerk
2001 - Dr. Albert Pierce
Plastic Surgeon
2001 - D. Slater, J. Clark, D. Tullock
Police Officers
2001 - Jim Tuman
Youth Speaker
Everyday Hero
Marilee Bylsma
Principal, Samuel Gompers School

About this Everyday Hero

Marilee Bylsma, or Miss B as she is known to her students and staff, is the Principal of Samuel Gompers Elementary School in Detroit where she has created a safe and peaceful haven in an economically distressed community. She recognizes that children who have a role model who believes in them can accomplish amazing results – and she has accomplished some amazing results. In 2001, Gompers was awarded the Michigan Golden Apple Award for having the highest elementary school MEAP scores in the district, and the Michigan and the National Blue Ribbon School Award for outstanding achievement. She gives of herself freely, and her unyielding optimism has a profound effect, not only on those with whom she comes in contact, but with everyone who hears her story. Her passion for her job and her students makes her a role model for children and adults, and a remarkable example for teachers and administrators to follow.

Her team has stated, "We laugh together, celebrate together, and at times we cry together. If you ask the children to describe their school, they will tell you we are a community. Together all participants: instructional, non-instructional, parents, community partner, and the administrator work together to eliminate the barriers to learning and meet the needs of the whole child. This philosophy has guided us to being a unique high achieving school that truly puts the children first."

Everyday Hero
Kevin Degen
Administrative Clerk, Plante & Moran – Southfield

About this Everyday Hero

Kevin works full time in the Graphics and Printing Department at Plante & Moran in Southfield, and exemplifies the values and work ethic of those exceptional people who succeed even in the face of physical disabilities. Kevin only has the use of the left side of his body. Still, he succeeds in his chosen profession, and at the same time bikes thousands of miles each year to raise money for various charities. In addition, he is an inspiration to his co-workers because he has also found the time to be a core team member of World T.E.A.M. Sports, an inductee of the Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame, and Olympic Torch Bearer for the 1996 Atlanta Games. To assist with his therapy, Kevin’s parents bought his first bike at an early age, and cycling has remained his true passion. He has received many awards, including an Academy Award for the Handicapped, Birmingham Groves Alumnus of the Year, and now the RARE Award.

Everyday Hero
Dr. Albert Pierce
Plastic Surgeon – Birmingham

About this Everyday Hero

Dr. Pierce is a plastic surgeon and humanitarian devoted to healing people, both spiritually and physically. He is a physician who tries extremely hard in every area of his specialty, and has found his true calling. Those who know and love him describe him as: ethical, kind, caring, non-judgmental, funny, compassionate, generous, and helpful. He carries all of these qualities in other parts of his life, not just his professional life. His accomplishments provide an inspiring story of excellence, sacrifice, and dedication to his profession, and his devotion to those around him makes him even more unique. Dr. Pierce uses his gift of healing, along with his surgical skills and goodwill to help others, and by doing so he liberates the lives of hundreds of people. A typical example involved a woman who was a victim of a fire whose neck became fused to her shoulder, and her arm became fused to her side. Dr. Pierce healed her. When he finished the surgery, she was able to move her neck and arm freely, and obtain a job to support herself and her five children. She was also once again able to hold her children.

Everyday Hero
D. Slater, J. Clark, D. Tullock
Captain Dane Slater
Detective Sergeant Jim Clark
Detective Don Tullock
Troy Police Department

About this Everyday Hero

Captain Dane Slater, Detective Sergeant James Clark, and Detective Don Tullock are Police Officers in the City of Troy, who have made a profound impact in the community by their extraordinary efforts on the job. In addition to their daily detective and administrative work, their combined effort in the Priscilla Ricketts fatal robbery case especially illustrated the characteristics that make them heroes. The Ricketts Case lasted almost two and a half years, and at times it seemed hopeless. They devoted every fiber of their beings to the investigation, skipping meals and sleep, giving up countless evenings and weekends with their families, and many times working late into the night. They were painstakingly thorough in their police work, covering every inch of ground for evidence, and interviewing hundreds of people, and their relentless pursuit finally led to the first-degree felony-murder arrest and ultimate conviction on November 22, 1999.

Aside from the officer’s outstanding police work, their sincerity and kindness also sets them apart. "Much too often, police officers are criticized by the media and civilians, and their extraordinary achievements are overlooked. We are all blessed with the comfort and security of knowing there are capable, qualified people out there, risking their lives to make our communities safer places to live. We should not take that for granted."

Everyday Hero
Jim Tuman
Captain Dane Slater
Founder of Jimmy’s Kids

About this Everyday Hero

Jim Tuman never learned the name of the old man who changed his life. Lost in Amsterdam while traveling Europe in the 1960’s, a total stranger guided Tuman for more than two hours until he reached his destination. Tuman couldn’t thank the man enough. "Isn’t that what it’s all about?" the old man replied. "Aren’t we all on Earth together to help one another?" "After that", Tuman recalls, "I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life." Tuman is an advocate and motivational speaker for young people. He has personally spoken to young people in every state and six other countries. He also created programs to reduce youth violence, steer youngsters from trouble, and give 28,000 toys yearly to special-needs kids in Metro Detroit. "Jim Tuman’s singular mission is to give kids a voice to tell adults what they want and need so we adults can make intelligent choices about their futures," says Alex Montaner, former Michiganian of the Year who nominated Tuman for the same honor in the year 2000.

To read more about Jim Tuman, click here.