RARE Everyday Hero Stories
Partner, Managing Partner2013 - Francis DeShano
Police Sergeant2013 - Kelly LaFontaine
Automotive Business Women2013 - Lance Pittman
Lead Recruiter2013 - Najah Bazzy
Founder & Chair2013 - Rob Dube
President & Owner2013 - Scott Hiipakka
Chief Service Officer2013 - Terrance Collier
Motivational Speaker / Founder
Partner, Managing Partner
About this Everyday Hero
Ellyn Davidson was 36, the mother of a toddler, a Kindergartener and second-grader, and Account Director at Brogan & Partners when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now a five-year survivor, Ellyn has raised more than $550,000 to fight breast cancer, been promoted to Managing Partner and is now president of the Michigan Amber Alert Foundation Board.
While fighting for her own life, she’s inspired hundreds of women to fight for theirs—personally and professionally. Ellyn has helped create and market multi-million dollar brands, while still finding the patience and energy to be a mom, and actively mentor young professionals. Whether the hospital room, board room or dining room, Ellyn is acutely aware of how important it is to help support other women. Her influence is wildly evident in 13-year-old Lacey, who was the top fundraiser in last year’s Susan G. Komen Michigan 3-Day Youth Corps.
Since joining Brogan & Partners in 1994, Ellyn has left big fingerprints all over the 27-year-old agency. She started in our media department where she quickly rose to Media Director. Then, Ellyn moved into Account Management where her abilities and energy were rewarded with responsibilities for managing several of our most important clients. Ellyn has a dazzling ability to oversee and coordinate teams on complex projects.
Today, Ellyn brings her talents, experience and expertise together to focus on strategy, business development, morale, technology, and what’s next for Brogan & Partners and our clients.
Ellyn received a BBA in Marketing and Operations Management from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an International Business Specialization from the London School of Economics.
Ellyn is a Breast Cancer 3-Day Team Captain, Director of Ta Ta Breast Cancer, Outreach Coordinator for FORCE and a Breast Cancer speaker. She lives in Huntington Woods with her husband, Jon and their children.
Sergeant, Sault Ste. Marie Police Depart
Written by: Logan Methner, 2013 RARE Scholarship Winner
About this Everyday Hero
Heroes can be found every day. When many people think of a hero, they automatically think of someone who is a celebrity or who is famous for doing something in history as opposed to people who are involved in our own communities and lives. Heroes often go unrecognized for their actions in the lives they lead. An everyday hero is someone who makes a difference for others by their daily life’s work. My hero is an ordinary man of medium height, an athletic build, and gray hair, but he’s made a significant difference in my life.
In Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, we have many heroes who make a difference in people’s lives daily. Francis “Fran” Deshano is someone who I personally view as an everyday hero. Fran has been serving as a police officer for seventeen years and is now a Sergeant for the Sault Police Department and plays an active role in protecting our community. Before becoming part of the Police Department, Fran attended Delta Community College in Bay City, Michigan, and attended the Northeast Regional Police Academy. Although he attended a community college, as opposed to U of M or Harvard, he still has become extremely successful in everything he does. Fran is an excellent example of how ordinary people can become heroes and do great things for their community.
Fran excels in his work with the Police Department because he has specialized training from the Police Academy, is certified as an Accident Reconstructionist, and is a licensed personal trainer. Additionally, Fran teaches the Firearms Academy at Lake Superior State University. Last year, Fran was recognized as the “Police Officer of the Year” for his department. He will also receive the “Life Saving Award” in early December for saving a woman from drowning in the dangerous, freezing water of the power canal last November. Fran continually makes a difference throughout the community and for others, because he goes above and beyond what he is expected from him. In addition to his role as a police officer, Fran plays an important role in the community as a coach. He has thirty years of coaching experience in soccer, basketball, and football. His greatest impact as a coach has been towards soccer. Fran is the founder and owner of the Soo Raider Soccer Club, which has been a state registered soccer organization for the past four years. He started the organization because the lack of opportunity there was to play soccer in our community. He currently serves as the Sault High Girls Varsity Soccer coach and has made tremendous developments within the program. Before he took the coaching position, there were few girls who even tried out and the team had a losing record. However, Fran scheduled more games during the season with harder competition, transitioning from playing JV teams to Varsity teams while still maintaining a winning record. He took the team from a 2 and 10 record to a 7, 1, and 5 record. He has worked hard trying to develop the program further by writing letters to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association, National Women’s Law Center, and Communities for Equity to allow our Upper Peninsula girls’ soccer team to participate in playoffs. In the off season, he continually works to improve the program by resurfacing the field and raising funds for new uniforms and equipment. This extended effort represents how Fran goes far beyond his duties as a police officer.
Fran’s character values, daily actions, and contributions to the community make him an everyday hero. Although there are other everyday heroes, I feel Fran Deshano is the best example of heroism, because of his service to the community as a police officer, contributions to sports as a coach, brave deeds, and noble qualities. He takes personal interest in others in the community, whether it involves his job or coaching, or emphasizes a strong work ethic and teamwork. Fran is a caring, humble man who leads a busy life and donates much of his time to the community. He clearly puts others first through his actions and this makes him an exceptional example of an everyday hero, a person I would like to emulate.
Automotive Business Women
About this Everyday Hero
Her passion? Helping others, especially children in need which is why automotive businesswoman Kelley LaFontaine is chair of the Huron Valley Optimist Childhood Cancer Campaign benefiting children battling cancer both locally and nationally. As a candidate for the 2011 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year, Kelley and the LaFontaine campaign team tapped family and friends, as well as 650-plus employees at the seven LaFontaine dealerships in the region. The team’s goal was to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) programs, including research, patient services, advocacy, public and professional education and community services. Kelley was successful in raising more than $150,000 for blood cancer research and patient services, making her the winner of this year’s Michigan Woman of the Year as well as the National winner. One hundred percent of the money raised by LaFontaine will support valuable research for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She credits her brother, Ryan LaFontaine, LLS 2010 Man of the Year, and cancer survivor as being her inspiration. Over the last 3 years, Team LaFontaine has raised over $525,000 for LLS research grants for the U of M Hospital. Kelley is also very active in the American Cancer Society, National Kidney Foundation, and Ort America. Her compassion and dedication to helping others makes Kelley LaFontaine a Rare Everyday Hero.
Lead Recruiter, McLaren Medical Center
Written by: LeBrandon Pittman, 2013 RARE Scholarship Winner
About this Everyday Hero
“In our world of big names, our true heroes tend to be anonymous. In this life of illusion and quasi-illusion, the person of solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knowingness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicized jobs.”(Daniel J. Boorstin)In the United States alone, approximately 21 million children, 26%, are growing up in a household with only one parent, the numbers almost double among the African American community, about 49%. There are many individuals in my life that I can consider to be exemplary, but there is only one that has truly through his life’s work has made a change in the lives of others and especially my life, my father, Lance Pittman. Throughout his life my dad has held three important roles, a guide, pastor/leader, and a family man.
Serving in the United States military was an imperative move that my father was content with making. The Air Force significantly changed my dad, the man I know today I owe to the United States government and above all God. Through hard work he attained discipline, through persistence he gained character, and through his service he achieved an unyielding work ethic. He went into the Air Force looking for a purpose, not long after he found himself in the recruiting field, guiding people into new directions, illuminating their seemingly dark futures. As in the case of the inner city high school, in which no one could previously pass the Air Force entrance exam. Day and night he worked with the students to help them to realize their potential. In the end 12 were eligible to enter the Air Force, enabled to serve our nation, their lives changed and enhanced forever. Eventually he retired ending his career with an overall 140 average of recruitments under his belt. The influence of his work in the Air Force catapulted him into his current civilian life employment. He received a job in the human resources department of McLaren Macomb Medical Center as the lead clinical recruiter. Now everyday he wakes up to a job that, in a way, gives people hope by providing them with options for a better future.
Lance, my dad, is a very pious man, one could say that he never truly thinks of himself; his heart is always with the community of Detroit, where he grew up. There are so many instances that illustrate his compassion and empathy for the inner city. Almost three years ago my dad started a church in Detroit, though our home is in Shelby Township approximately 30 miles away. The church itself is centered in a rough community to say the least. But every year with or without help, around Christmas my dad goes out to the neighboring community passing out care packages filled with basic essentials for a traditional Christmas dinner. He does this not to gain just another filled seat inside our church, but to do what he can, because he can.
Without a man with his character and morals in my life, it’s easy to say that my very existence would probably be just another statistic. Perhaps ending up incarcerated, another high school dropout, a juvenile delinquent always in trouble with the law, without a father, a mentor, my life would have been staggeringly changed. Looking at what I have the role model that has been placed in my life I can feel nothing but utter bliss. He may not be super or extraordinary like the heroes in comic books or fight on the front lines of battle but he’s a hero in his own rite. “Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. We come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety.”(Daniel J. Boorstin). My dad is a hero to many, and a role model for all to follow.
Founder & Chair, Zaman International
Najah Hamka, 2013 RARE Scholarship Winner
About this Everyday Hero
Zaman International is an organization found by Najah Bazzi in which many people come together to volunteer for those who need the help that have never asked for it. Najah Bazzi is a former Nurse Clinical Specialist at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn Michigan and is well-known around and outside her community. To me, a hero is not defined with a red cape and a sidekick, or someone who fights the “bad guys” against crime; a hero is an individual who steps out of their daily agenda and gives a hand to others and helps them fight their day-to-day struggles.
Being “The voice for the voiceless,” Najah Bazzi felt it as an obligation to start Zaman International Hope for Humanity because it truly makes a difference in everyone’s lives. The meaning behind the word “Zaman” is “Time,” meaning one should let go of the past, and focus on their present, for a better future. The organization has several different programs. The first one was Bayt Al Zahra (The Home of Zahra) which is main reason as to why Bazzi started this organization. It is a refuge settlement that helps those in need get back on their feet and create a better future for themselves. Back when she was a nurse, she was in the delivery room when a baby was born with cancer. She was really devastated and decided to visit this family. Bazzi was shocked to see what a poor family this was: there was no furniture, only a small cooler for the little food and formula for the baby, and a two-burner propane stove, the family was struggling to survive and pay for living and breathing. Sadly, the baby eventually died and the family had no money to afford an appropriate burial yet the kind and humble Bazzi took care of that and came up with the idea for Plots for Tots. Plots for Tots this was organized for aborted or new born babies who did not make it through life to be buried in a piece of land Zaman has purchased rather than being left behind. It’s already hard enough that mothers have to go through with a death of an infant, but to not have a place is even worse. For children that have the ability in life, Zaman created K.E.E.P. Bazzi organized this for children to learn about peace with others and peace building skills. She believes that it is very important for children to know that we are all equal and one thing that is more important than that is L.E.A.P., which she put together to take children and young adults into leadership for active peace. So one must not only know peace, but should also act upon it. Now for the woman in the community. Being a woman herself, Bazzi created B.O.O.S.T. because she understands what it’s like to be marginalized. Women all over are secluded from social groups around them. She organized this to “Boost” up their confidence and get on the track they are most capable of being on. When it comes to getting on track, hunger cannot be in the way and with that came The Food Bank Project. For over thirteen years now, Zaman has been providing donated food to those in need for it on a regular day to day basis and bigger donations come during the holidays. Zaman reaches out to schools and mosques and churches to organize a canned food drive and succeeds. There are also mini organizations like the Walk4Humanity, which is meant to raise awareness for hunger through Zaman’s new “Hunger Hurts” campaign. Bazzi also put together a “Cut Away Hunger” dinner that I have attended for women and children that also raises awareness for hunger and ties in with B.O.O.S.T. All these organizations and more, Bazzi has done so much for her community.
There is so much more Bazzi has done for the community and she is truly my hero and role model and I look up to her actions everyday and base my goals upon her achievements. Helping others has always been something I loved doing growing up, but she has taken it to the furthest level anyone could ever take it to. I am so glad such an organization has been created because it really did strengthen the community I live in. Najah Bazzi is an individual who does not show off her accomplishments, but is still proud of what has become out of her foundation. Humble, thoughtful, modest, and generous, are all words that describe my hero: Najah Bazzi.
President & Owner, ImageOne & Tonerforautism.com
About this Everyday Hero
Even though Rob Dube was fresh out of Albion College in 1991 when he and his life-long friend, Joel Pearlman, created Image One, he was more than ready for the role of co-owner and President. In fact, he had practically spent his whole life preparing for the day.
Rob’s journey began in ninth grade when he and Joel launched their first business – selling blow pop candy out of their school lockers. From blow pops they moved on to other endeavors, such as selling t-shirts and detailing cars.
Rob and his partner realized early on that their Passion to Exceed what YOU think Possible would be key to their success. It is this passion that has become the driving force behind Image One’s success.
In 2004, Image One was acquired by a public company; and in 2006 Rob and his partner reacquired the company. While going through the process of reacquiring Image One, they discussed ways they could make a difference in the world. After reading the book Small Giants, by Bo Burlingham, they became obsessed with building an amazing company culture and giving back. Their mission is to change the lives of their team, their customers, and everyday people in small and big ways. In addition, they created a program to give back to a cause close to their heart, tonerforautism.com, which is dedicated to raising awareness and donating at least $1,000,000 to organizations that support autism-related research and issues.
Image One has won the Crain’s Small Business of the year award, Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility, Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America (3 times), 101 Best and Brightest (3 times), Corp Magazine Best of Michigan, the Detroit Chamber Future 50 award, and Michigan 50 Companies to watch.
Rob is a Member of the Board of trustees for the Boys and Girls Club and served as the Chairman of the “Walk for the Future,” is past President of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization, has been involved with Junior Achievement where he has participated in an Online Mentor Sessions, and served on the Executive Board of SIFE at Oakland University. Rob has taught both MBA and undergraduate Business Classes at Oakland University and speaks to groups about planning your future. Outside of work, Rob enjoys running marathons, snowboarding, vacationing “up north” in Michigan and spending time with his family.
Chief Service Officer,
Patriot Service Corporation
About this Everyday Hero
Courage is defined as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear. Courage is also the ability to act in accordance with ones beliefs, especially in spite of adversity. Scott Hiipakka’s indomitable spirit to serve our nation and to aid those in need across the globe defines courage. Scott is the Chief Service Officer for Patriot Services Corporation and also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Michigan Army National Guard. He is a distinguished military graduate of Michigan State University, holds a master degree in homeland security and a certificate in bioterrorism preparedness from Penn State University and a top-secret clearance from the Department of Defense. Scott recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan where he served as a combat advisor and worked steadfast to defend American freedom. It is Scott’s belief that his duty is not only to protect mankind but to provide the less fortunate with relief. Scott is a family man and community leader. He started “Together We Can” an annual food drive for Lighthouse of Pontiac. He is a Winning Futures board member and former Board Chair. Scott was instrumental in creating their annual Forks and Corks fundraiser which to date has raised over $100,000 for mentoring programs to support young people. During his recent tour in Afghanistan, after seeing a school burn down, Scott established the Afghan School Adoption Program or Operation ASAP. The program collects donations of school supplies from families and organizations across the United States to distribute to under privileged Afghan schools. Operation ASAP not only helps Afghan students and schools to improve their environment, it also helps strengthen the relationship between the Afghan people and American Troops. Scott is a highly decorated officer and has received numerous awards and medals for his military service including a Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal. And for his impartial service and commitment to humanity, Scott Hiipakka is worthy of being called a Rare Everyday Hero.
Motivational Speaker / Founder
Written by: Regenia Collier
About this Everyday Hero
Terrance is a motivational speaker and a performer of positive rap as well. He caters to the needs of the children in any given community that he might be focused on at the time. He has been working as an Activist/Advocate for children (including his -3- sons) since 1994. He has volunteered for many organizations such as the NAACP, the Governor’s Office, the Mayor’s Office, Members of City Council, etc. and he has even been recognized by President Obama for his great works in the community. No one is better at expressing a positive note as well as he can.
Over the years, he has become more understanding to the needs of the young people in the State of Michigan. He travels from city to city to speak to a number of young adults (teenagers, mostly boys) to give his testimony about his childhood growing up in the city of Detroit. The premise of his story is for the young people to stay away from drugs and alcohol, don’t smoke and to get a college education while they are young. Also, he wants the young people to know that " YOU CAN BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE," if you stay focused and be positive so that you can give back to the community and help the next generation of young people that are coming.
Terrance is very self-motivated and driven. He is focused on getting the job done. He is persistent and he really enjoys what he does. Children always remember him because he is sincere when he relays a positive piece of information to them. Children always know if an adult is not being honest with them. Terrance is a positive force in the state of Michigan. I have learned never to give up. Keep moving forward and you will reach your goal. The road less traveled is hard at times but also very rewarding and you will feel good at the end of your journey. I am truly blessed to be in his realm. He is a legend in his own time. I truly admire his spirit and how genuine he truly is.
As I’ve said earlier, Terrance is a very driven person and he is touching lives every day, little by little. He is trying to motivate the young people in the community to stay focused on their education and to be more positive in their everyday lives so that they can grow as a person and give back to society. He wants them to know what self-worth is. He is serious in his fight to combat violence and negativity in our state as well as in the city of Detroit. The city is truly blessed to have such an amazing being working so hard for the benefit of our youth. Soon, more and more citizens will hear of all the great things he, as just one man, is doing for his community and I guarantee it will motivate them to do more. You must always start from where you are. What can you do to change things? What are you doing before you start complaining? These are the questions that must be answered. This is what Terrance believes in whole-heartedly and I believe in him.