Every year , hundreds of people come to the Giant Steps Therapeutic Equine Equestrian Center on Lakeville Highway. Sean Willer was one of those people. After suffering a stroke in the prime of life, he lost his short term memory, ending his career and throwing him into a deep depression. Then he met the horses. The more he cared for the horses, the more they cared for him. Horses have a way of healing when we are not able to do it ourselves. Sean grew so much that, he began a new career. This time as the facilities manager for the ranch. Then Sean became a certified instructor and now helps others with physical and mental difficulties flourish as he did. "This place saved me" Sean Says. Now, because he is helping others to lead richer and fuller lives. We place Sean Willer's name on our list of Hometown heroes
CHP Officer Bernard
Ashley wrote a letter that said: It was early in the morning when our family received the knock on the door no family ever wants to receive. It was CHP officer Bernard, telling us that our uncle had just died in a traffic accident. The reason for this letter is because Officer Bernard was not just any officer delivering bad news. In the midst of tragedy , this man made our family feel as if someone cared. He spoke to us with compassion, and genuine love, even offering my grandma his personal cell number in case she needed to just talk or cry. He has forever touched us and we will all be forever grateful. It is because of his professionalism and compassion that we now add CHP Officer Bernard's name to our list of hometown heroes.
A hero can be found any where, at any time …... and can be anyone.Proof of that, is UPS driver Devin Brooks.While on his route, in Santa Rosa, he saw an 86 year old woman fall in the middle of the crosswalk trying to get from her Doctors office to the Hospital. As she sat there in the middle of the street, hurt and confused, not one person stopped to help her. Except, that is, for this one UPS driver. He immediately pulled his truck over, jumped out and got her to safety. It is because of this simple act of concern for the safety of another that we now place Devin Brook's name on our list of Hometown Heroes
Director of agriculture operations for Jordan winery may be the most unusual Home Town Hero we have ever found you see Brent was not nominated by humans but by one quarter of a million bees. With pollution and disappearing habitat decimating hives across America , Brent has built dozens of homes for the bees and planted acres of the flowers that bees love. In fact, his Bee program, has become so popular that in the winter, beekeepers from the Central valley bring their hives to Sonoma County to stay healthy.. Then , take them back to the central valley to pollinate almond trees. Acres of Honey bee gardens, pastures and fields , all set aside for the bees and now, he is planting milkweed to help save the monarch Butterfly. It is because of his care for natures smallest pollinators that we now place Jordan Winery's , Brent Young , on our list of Hometown heroes..
In 1988, when America was busy watching The Wonder Years and China Beach , Santa Rosa high school graduate, Brett Crozier was heading to the US Naval Academy. He would go on to fly helicopters , fighter jets and serve on aircraft carriers until one day he was promoted to Command The USS Theodore Roosevelt. When the corona virus broke out on board, he had a decision to make .. to ask for help or sail on. He chose the health of his crew and for that decision was relieved of command. Remembering a lesson learned growing up in sonoma county he said..“sometimes you have to choose ..not what is easy, but what is right “ As he left his ship his entire crew showed up to applaud their captain and we at KZST now add Brett Coszier's name to our list of Hometown heroes
Keely Dickey is 11 years old. At her birthday party, a few weeks ago, she decided to do things a little differently.
There was cake and candles, sodas and party balloons, but when it came to the presents.... she told her guests that she didn't want anything for herself.
What she asked for, is that everyone.. bring gifts ..for kids who were in the Emergency room of Sutter hospital.
There were dolls and stuffed animals, books and board games , everything from stickers to paint by numbers.
All of it given freely, to comfort children at the most frightening time in their young lives.
It is because of this random act of Kindness that we now pen Keeley ( Key-Lee) Dickeys name onto our KZST List of Hometown Heroes..
Getting your child a hair cut is easy...
Unless.... you have a special needs child, where a simple trip to a barber can cause complete sensory meltdown.
When Marcos Flores of Gentleman's Barber Shop heard that there were kids.... that needed haircuts ….he brought his entire staff, to Lattice Educational Services in Windsor and carefully, gently, went to work.
They brought Barber chairs, clippers and most importantly a mirror so that each child could see themselves afterwards ...and feel that confidence boost, only a new haircut can give.
A simple thing like a haircut might not seem like much ….but as one mother , with tears in her eyes said, It was one of the nicest gifts in the world. For going out of their way, we now place Marcus Flores and all the staff at Gentleman's Barber Shop on the list of Hometown Heroes
When she heard that there were still people trying to find a place to live in Sonoma County, she looked at her unused land and said...
" why don't I ..put up some tiny homes "
" why don't I... offered them to people who were burned out of the Journeys End Mobile home park? "
" Why don't I stop waiting for someone else, and just get it done " 5 cottages and 2 RV's later... 7 families are now living in a great little community off of Old Redwood Highway
Because of her " why don't I" attitude,
We now place , Barbra Reynolds name onto our list of Sonoma County , Home Town heroes.
It's late, on a rainy sonoma county night
When out of the corner of your eye you see a car.. stuck ...and slowly sinking into a water filled ditch.. do you help or just drive on by?
Omar Gonzalez chose to the first option, and he got involved.
Waist deep he waded into the cold water.
Prying open the car door he pulled the older woman trapped inside to freedom.
That night, she thought she was going to die, but because of Omar and his two daughters that woman is alive today.
We now place the name of Omar Gonzales on the list of Hometown heroes as proof that "Everyday Dads" can be true heroes . Not just in the eyes of their daughters, but to everyone.
20 years ago, Paul Doyle had a thousand dollars and a dream…to start a newspaper that would print “Only positive stories.”
Stories that were uplifting. Stories that were inspiring.Stories that covered the people, places and events that make Sonoma County the greatest place on the planet.
He called it the Upbeat Times and instead of charging for that paper, he would give it away for free. You'll find it in doctor’s offices, coffee shops and yes, even at the front desk of our radio station.
For keeping that positive spirit alive and well, we now nominate Paul Andrew Doyle as another Sonoma County Hometown Hero.
When Pearl Fischer was six years old, her teacher, at the Healdsburg School, told her about children that don't have clean water. Instead of playing or reading or going to school, those children spend their day finding clean water and carrying it home one jug at a time. That was the moment when pearl started her website called “Pearl Builds A Well”
Now at the ripe old age of 7, Pearl has built four wells in the Congo and there are more on the way.
For bringing clean water to the children in Africa, we now add Pearl Fischer’s name to our growing list of Hometown Heroes.
So what do dog catchers do in their time off? Shirley Zingler rescues animals.
A graduate of Santa Rosa High School, she always loved animals. She became a Sonoma County animal control officer to help animals in trouble.
She wrote a book called "The Secret Life of Dog Catchers."
And even started a rescue operation called The Dogwood Animal Rescue Project. So far, she has saved over 500 animals.
Because of her lifelong dedication to our furry citizens, we now put Shirley Zingler's name on our list of Hometown Heroes.
When Ed Harmon retired from teaching, he didn't stop changing lives. To keep kids from skipping school he started throwing Mountain Mikes Pizza parties. The catch? You've got to have a 90 percent attendance record to be invited. Ed found that rewarding someone for good behavior, worked better than punishment. And the kids who have attended his pizza parties agree.
So, on behalf of all the students who stayed in school and received their diplomas, we now add, Ed Harmon's name to our list of Sonoma County Hometown Heroes.
A cat stuck in a tree seems a little cliche, but it is exactly what happened to Marvel Gray. Her cat had been stuck on top of an 80 foot redwood tree for two days. Everywhere she turned, no one was able to help her, until Phillippe Garcia of Windsor asked if she needed some assistance? As soon as Marvel said yes, Phillippe started climbing – higher and higher he went, until he disappeared into the branches. Minutes later he was climbing back down with her baby in his arms.
Now, on behalf of Marvel and her cat, we add the name of Phillippe Garcia to our list of Hometown Heroes.
When Sonoma County animal lover, Odessa Gunn, heard about the YULIN Food Festival where dogs are featured on the menu, she booked a flight to China.
After 17 hours on the plane she arrived to discover that every horrible thing she had been told was real.
Odessa was able to save ten of those dogs and bring them back to the wine country where they are being adopted as the family pets they were meant to be.
For saving the lives of our four-legged friends, we now add Odessa Gunn to our list of Hometown Heroes.
Bananas At Large
Thousands of stories have been told about the Sonoma County fires.
From the amazing heroism of the people who fought them, to the everyday heroism of our friends and neighbors. And then there was bananas at large...
Bananas, as they are affectionately known, is where musicians in Sonoma County go for their instruments.
Before the smoke had even cleared, Bananas was giving away strings, cords, amplifiers, guitars and drums to musicians. And they did it for free.
Terry Saunders from The Dylan Black Project said if it wasn't for them, his music would have gone silent.
Because they kept music in Sonoma County alive, we now recognize Bananas at Large as a Sonoma County Hometown Hero.
At Piner Olivet Charter School they don't call him Jules, they call him Mr. Strasser.
Every day for the last 25 years, any child who didn't feel comfortable eating at the regular school lunch tables, knew there was a safe place to go – Mr. Strasser’s classroom.
He opened his doors to make his classroom a secure place, where students can eat lunch and be themselves.
He has a way of making every child feel loved and not alone.
So now, for the many kids in Sonoma County who wonder what being a “true hero” is all about,
we now recognize Jules Strasser as a Sonoma County Hometown Hero.
There's a Christmas tree standing at the gates of Paradise, and it is all because of Ronnie Duval.
One of the few things that survived the Camp Fire is a brown stone wall as you enter the town of Paradise with the word “Welcome” on it.
Next to that sign is a 12-foot Christmas tree covered in tiny, blinking, solar powered lights and it’s there because of Ronnie Duval.
He lost his home in the Sonoma County fires and understands better than most, that you haven't lost everything, until you lose hope. And that Christmas tree has become a symbol of hope.
For bringing hope to Paradise, we now award Ronnie Duval our thanks for his gesture of kindness and add his name to our list of Hometown Heroes.
Art Ibleto was born in Italy. As a teenager he put his life on the line again and again as he fought against the Nazi’s and fascists. After the war, he came to America in search of a better life.
He worked in the fields picking vegetables, drove trucks and worked in a factory. In 1974, as a project for the Sons of Italy, he started his “Spaghetti Palace“ at the fairgrounds and grew that business into what is now known as the Pasta King.
Now, at over 90, he still works every day, donating food, time and money to almost every charitable event in the county.
Because of his lifetime of work, helping others to live the American Dream, we now add Art Ibleto's name to our list of Hometown Heroes.
When Allyson Ahlstrom was in school she stared a project called "Threads for Teens." Her goal was to help girls to build their self-esteem and confidence by starting a special store filled with name brand fashion clothing...except everything in her store would be free.
Girls wearing poorly fitting hand me downs could walk out, looking and feeling confident, in styles and brands that they could never dream that they could afford.
For changing lives, giving hope and making the seemingly impossible, possible we now add Allyson Ahlstrom’s name to our list of Hometown Heroes
It is said that kids don't read papers anymore, but they do read this one. It's called “Kids Scoop” and was started by Vicki Whiting.
She had taught her own kids and then decided that ALL kids needed a way to explore reading and writing. Some of the kids that have been reading her paper have become leaders, teaches and even members of the City Council.
Because kids do everything on the internet, she started her own website. She still prints the paper for free so that they can get into the hands of every child .
Because of her untiring devotion to the children of Sonoma County we now add Viki Whitting’s name to our list of Hometown Heroes.
When you are a child, and learning to read, reading out loud can be daunting. That gave Jo-Ann Yates an idea – why not read to a dog?
A dog is not judgmental, a dog does not correct you if you make a mistake and best of all a dog is a real good listener.
At Healdsburg, Windsor, Rincon Valley, and Rohnert Park Public libraries every week children read to volunteer dogs.
It is all part of a project called the 4 Paws Learning and Wellness Center, and it is because of her work to help the children of Sonoma County read, we now add Jo-Ann Yates’ name to our list of hometown heroes.
Mary, Maria, Paula, Betty and Molly Murphy McGregor
In 1980, there were NO smart phones and there was No internet.But that didn't stop Mary, Maria, Paula, Betty and Molly Murphy McGregor on their mission to uncover the amazing strides woman have made.
They traveled the dusty corners of America to shine history's light on women, because back then there were very few books about women and the few there were, hadn't been checked out in over ten years.
They lobbied congress for an official Women's History Day, then week and finally “Women's History Month,” knowing that the more people knew the history of women, the easier it would be for all of us to be kinder to each other.
For their tireless work creating and running the National Women's History Project created in Santa Rosa, California, we now add all their names to our list of Hometown Heroes.
Kerry and Sally Sorenson
They call themselves the Garbage Patch Kids.
Every Thursday along the banks of the Russian River, you will find Kerry and Sally Sorenson picking up trash from homeless camps.And while they are cleaning up, they are also checking in on the people who are living on the margins of society, to make sure they are healthy and fed.
They don't get paid for it, they just do it, because at one time, both of them were living out of their cars too.
For cleaning up, reaching out and extending a hand of kindness, we now put Kerry and Sally Sorenson's name on our list of Hometown Heroes.
It's 3 AM. The phone rings. Someone in Sonoma County is about to give birth, and Rosanne Gephart is there to help. She wasn't happy with the way mothers and their babies were treated during and after childbirth, so nine years ago, Rosanne created Better Beginnings, a non-profit organization that has provided help for hundreds of women who are having difficult labors, young moms, and moms without family support. She also manages Better Beginnings' free breastfeeding support program, which provides in-home visits and several support clinics or "breastfeeding cafes."
For Rosanne, "peace on Earth begins with birth!" KZST and Sam's for Play Cafe now add Rosanne Gephart to our list of Hometown Heroes.
Northern California Fires
The Northern California fires have changed our lives forever. But where would we have been without people like:
KZST and Sam's For Play Cafe now salute these brave people, as well as the firefighters, volunteers, law enforcement officers, and many other unsung Hometown Heroes who kept us safe and gave us hope.
The eighteen-mile long Petaluma River is an important wildlife habitat. It's also a favorite spot for sixth grader DJ Woodbury and his dad, who cherish the time they spend together fishing, checking out swans, or enjoying a lazy ride in their 16-foot aluminum boat.
When DJ, a student at Live Oak Charter School, was assigned a community project, he remembered seeing garbage floating along the banks of the river and decided this was the perfect opportunity to help. Over the next three months, DJ and his dad filled their boat with more than a ton of televisions, tires, tennis balls, bottles, cans...and even used syringes!
For making Sonoma County a better place to live, KZST and Sam's for Play Cafe now add DJ Woodbury to our list of Hometown Heroes.
One in sixty-eight American children has some form of autism. Victoria Cahill's brother has it, too. But what Victoria did, as her senior project at Windsor High School, has changed much more than only her brother's life.
She realized that special students like him felt left out of school events that the rest of us took for granted. Because Victoria enjoyed her high school prom so much, she took inspiration from her brother to create the "Justin Cahill Special Needs Prom," and over the last four years, hundreds of students have had the chance to experience THEIR senior prom, making memories that will last a lifetime. KZST and Sam's for Play Cafe now add Victoria Cahill to our list of Hometown Heroes.
When it comes to college if you haven't got the grades, scholarships don't apply to you.
Amy Covin who owns Amy's Wicked Slush, thinks differently.
She started a scholarship program for kids who want vocational training.
Construction, Auto repair, Retail, and hundreds of other "non college careers" in Sonoma County are just as important, so Amy started her won scholarship program.
She says "tell us what you want to do after high school and we may just fund it."
For reaching out a helping hand we now place Amy Covin's name to our list of Hometown heroes.
A few weeks ago, Marisa Dennison made the long Trek from Utah to Santa Rosa for the Iron man Triathalon.
Since part of that race was a 56 mile long ride, she brought her special racing bike and secured it with 2 cable locks .
Sadly, when she returned, a few hours later ...her bike... was gone.
She tried to rent one but after hearing her story, they said NO.. they would not rent her a bike, but ..they would GIVE it to her..a 5000 dollar, fully customized racing bike ..and then they told her to keep it.
While Marissa only placed 20th in her division, the real winner was that Sonoma County Spirit that says
"when the world beats you down, by those that only care about themselves.. we are here to help you stand back up brave and strong."
On behalf of Marisa Dennison we now add the name Trec bicycles on Mendocino to our list of Hometown heroes
He hated his life and who he had become.
Arthritis had tormented him, causing him to walk with a cane and balloon to over 350 pounds.
But instead of giving up, Oren Noah, grabbed a bicycle and started riding.
Every turn of the pedal was excruciating, but he kept going.
First down the street, then down the Joe Radoda (rah-dough-dah) trail. Miraculously, 8000 miles and 95 pounds later, he was competing in bike races...
Raising money for the arthritis foundation, so they could send kids with arthritis to camp and feel the sense of accomplishment that he feels.
Has he stopped? not yet.. despite his personal medical setbacks he is getting back on the road to help change the world one mile at a time.
To honor that spirit of never giving up we now place Oren Noah's name on our list of Hometown Hero's