Local Heroes “Show up” for a Good Cause

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When we remember those who gave their lives in the aftermath of the September 11th Attacks, our hearts go out to people in public service industries who “show-up” everyday and work to make our community better: law enforcement, firefighters, nurses, school teachers and everyone who devotes their life to serving others. Salem wants to pay tribute to some of these people in our region who champion extraordinary causes.

Meet local hero Tammi Burns whose mission is to help people “break the chain” of domestic abuse. She created the Break the Chain Apparel line that carries empowering messages: “Make a Stand against an Angry Hand,” or “It’s Not Love if There’s Fear.” The stylish apparel is especially popular with teenagers and Burns regularly travels to public schools to spread the word about abuse prevention, giving students a forum for expression as they create designs that find their way onto her apparel. Her work in the schools is part of her non-profit arm called Project Change Reaction. www.breakthechainapparel.com

Last Wednesday, hundreds of friendly red-shirted locals wielding paper plates descended on downtown Salem. You may have caught a glimpse of them lining Court and Liberty streets for a “stand-in” for Women Ending Hunger (WEH). They held plates with handwritten messages like: “End Hunger” and “No Empty Bellies,” these plates represented 46,000 children who depend on free or reduced lunch at public school (9,000 more than last year) in Marion and Polk counties. Project manager for WEH, Kat Daniel, and a group of volunteers came up with the idea to create awareness that “there are a lot of kids right here that need local food assistance,” said Daniels.

Local resident Kris Knox initiated and organized The Linda L. Vladyka Breast Wellness Foundation’s Play for a Cure, a softball tournament that began 10 years ago between 15 teams at a softball field on a rainy day in Newberg. Today it has grown to become the largest co-ed softball tournament in Oregon with 40 teams competing. She started the games (named for her mother) when her Mom was battling breast cancer because she wanted her Mom and others in her situation – who couldn’t meet the physical demands of a walk or run – to be able to participate in an event.

Last year, the group raised $42,500 – of which $25,000 went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation; $15,000 to the Salem Hospital Foundation for emergency financial aid for chemo patients; and $2,500 to the Salem YWCA for a mammogram screening program.

That annual tournament is the nexus of many inspirational stories: from the cancer survivors who throw out the first pitch from a wheelchair to the motivation behind the teams who band together to raise funds to honor their family and friends battling cancer.

September 11 will be the last day to wander through the haunting, but beautiful Patriot’s Day Memorial the “Field of Flags” at Salem’s Riverfront Park to honor victims of the September 11th Attacks and those servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afganistan and Iraqi conflicts. Go by today to see more than 5,000  flags and banners, or during the solitude of the evening when they are illuminated by a flood light against the dark sky. The event is sponsored by the Exchange Clubs of Salem. www.patriotsdaymemorial.com

But remember, it’s not just grand efforts that “a hero makes,” just “showing up” day after day and doing your part can make all the difference!

~ Angie Morris, president and CEO of Travel Salem
*Originally printed in Statesman Journal, 9/11/11