California Heroes 2017

Dear Friends,

A constituent brought me an idea in 2014 to honor local heroes for their selfless acts. This idea later became Senate Concurrent Resolution 97 which named every September as “California Heroes Month.” California now celebrates the unsung heroes in our communities every September.

You will find more than two dozen stories of unsung heroes that attended the 2017 California Heroes Month Ceremony. I encourage you to take a moment to learn about their incredible journeys.

Who do you know that has gone above and beyond, even with little acts, to make our neighborhood a better place? If you would like to nominate someone to receive a Senate certificate of recognition from my office, contact Jennifer Webber at or 619-596-3136.

Carl Andrew

Carl AndrewThis young leader is a passionate activist for amputees. As an amputee himself, Carl has lobbied in Washington D.C. with the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association, fighting for health insurance fairness for amputees. Carl became certified as a Peer Visitor in order to visit hospitalized amputees and offer comfort in their time of need. At Classical Academy High School (CAHS), Carl has been on the Honor Roll and Principal’s List past 3 years. As a member of the CAHS Robotics Team, he had the opportunity to compete at Nationals in St. Louis.

Mary Beason

Mary BeasonMary is the principal of Parkway Middle School in La Mesa. When there was no one to run the community volunteer organization, the Builders Club, she decided to start running it. She cares about her students and works exceptionally hard to facilitate every student’s learning experience, as well as maximizing their potential. She has made an amazing difference for the community of Parkway and continues to show her compassion and leadership skills.

Kerrie Chabot

Kerrie ChabotKerrie is a person with limitless energy who manages to solve critical issues while also raising 3 girls, being an amazing wife, and a full time teacher. Her time in the city of Dublin, Alameda County had her on the forefront of all the major issues of her community. On top of this, she has supported her daughter, Camille, another 2017 California Hero, who had managed to fight cancer twice, while still completing a Bachelor of Science degree in 4 years. To return the support received from her community, Camille was a motivator for Dublin’s Troop 32415 Silver Award “Caps for Chemo” project, which donated over 100 knitted beanies to the Pleasanton Valley Oncology Center.

Besma Coda

Besma CodaWith over 20 years of refugee-related experience and knowledge, Besma has designed and implemented programs to assist newly-arrived refugees in achieving economic and social self-sufficiency. There is no school, hospital, prison, or community in San Diego County that Besma did not visit or advocate for her clients.

Doug and Janice Davidson

Doug and Janice DavidsonDoug and Janice have devoted their time, money, and resources towards helping veterans who are in need. Janice has been the driving force in furniture donations and arranging deliveries to veterans in need. At the time of Heroes Month Award Ceremony, Doug had done 22 pushups every day for 472 consecutive days in order to create awareness for the fact that an average of 22 veterans commits suicide every day.

Sophia Felix

Sophia FelixAs the San Diego Chapter President of America's Children of Fallen Heroes, Sophia organizes fundraisers that support the children of fallen military heroes, police officers, and firefighters. She has also volunteered to support the baby Izaiah Wallis, who was hit by a teen drunk driver and left paralyzed and brain damaged. She organized fundraisers on his behalf for his therapy costs, and surprised him and his family to a Disneyland vacation.

Leisa Tilley Grajek

Leisa Tilley GrajekLeisa breeds and trains German Shepherds for veterans in need of a service animal with the K9 Guardians organization in Fallbrook. Her day starts early every day because she feeds, trains, and takes care of her dogs. She is a hero to the veteran community and her dogs have helped veterans who are struggling with PTSD or other ailments. Many times, she uses her own money to take care of these dogs and provides them to veterans in need.

Jackie Heyneman

Jackie HeynemanSince 1997, Jackie’s continuous years of service has resulted in 2,600+ trees that make downtown in Fallbrook a place of nature’s beauty. As one of the founders, with Vince Ross Heyneman, she began to develop the Fallbrook Treescape Project with other volunteers to keep the Main Street area lined with trees and benches with dedications to those who have passed and loved the community so much. She is currently working with the environmental group, Save Our Forest, and their education program that facilitates elementary school students to replant native flora in nature preserves.

Shinene Basore Johnson

Shinene Basore JohnsonNaomi's Closet was founded in 2012 by Shinene, and it offers free clothes and other personal items to local women in need. She also helped many families that were in desperate need of resources after losing their belongings to fires. Shinene is always willing to go above and beyond to make her community a better place.

Lindsey Lopez

Lindsey LopezAt Classical Academy High School, Lindsey is a dedicated teacher who tirelessly supports students by always being available and empowering them to become independent young adults.

Lindsey McMorran

Lindsey McMorranLindsey has created her own charity organization called “Here with Hope”, which raised money to support local families with children diagnosed with cancer. She dedicates her heart and soul to improving the lives of children who are battling cancer. The organization strives to create a community of assistance, lending support through financial, community, and emotional help.

Dr. Robert Meisel O.D.

Dr. Robert Meisel O.D.Robert has examined eyes at the Lions Optometric Vision Clinic on a monthly basis for nearly ten years to help people who otherwise can’t afford eye exams. He serves as a mentor for UCSD pre-optometry students and has spoken at the Southern California College of Optometry on volunteerism. Robert also has participated in nearly 20 “Lions In Sight” clinics in several countries, including Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Serbia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Mexico.

John Morley

John MorleySantee Santas, Santee Lakeside Rotary Club, and Santee Lakes Foundation are just a few of the local organizations that John has actively served on. He is there to volunteer both his time and energy to make sure every event is a success. Because of his service, events such as the Concert At the Lakes, the Waddle and Trot, and the Chamber Awards Night successfully raised funds for the community.

Mary Lou Munguia

Mary Lou MunguiaMary is a second grade teacher at Fuerte Elementary. As an educator, she is tasked with the early molding of today’s children. Her passion and dedication as a teacher is remarkable, and is what makes her deserving of high recognition.

Stacey Perez

Stacey PerezStacey is the principal of Classical Academy Online. Her work has curated educational experiences that go above and beyond for her students. She understands the value each student possesses when they are at their best and worst, and finds a way to let every child shine.

Buddy Rabaya

Buddy RabayaBuddy has been a volunteer for the Santee Mobilehome Owners Action Committee for 11 years. During this time he served in a number of different roles, including that of the president. He is also the region manager for San Diego County and Imperial Valley for the state organization, Golden State Manufactured-home Owners League. Buddy also executed an 806 all-donated backpack drive for Santee School District, in which each backpack was filled with school supplies.

Trisha Rao

Trisha RaoTrisha is the author of the book Believe in Yourself. She wrote it when she was just eight-years-old to remind children around the world to believe in themselves, work hard, and never give up when things go wrong. Trisha launched the book in Istanbul, Turkey and read it to Syrian refugee children. In 2016, Trisha donated over 1,100 copies to keep her promise of donating a book to a refugee for every copy sold.

Heather Rawley

Heather RawleyAs an amazing teacher, communicator, and supporter of her students at all levels, Heather is always willing to help others understand students of varying levels. Her attitude is exceptional, and she has shown her team player attributes throughout different challenges. California is lucky to have her as an educator for our children.

Rachel Redhouse

Rachel RedhouseRachel serves both the San Diego and Riverside counties as the president of Empty Cradle, a non-profit organization that provides peer support to bereaved parents who have lost a baby with pregnancy complications. Rachel spends many hours each week making sure that parents have the support they need to heal and honor their children. The organization is run solely by volunteers and has provided comfort for those in a time of deep sorrow.

Chad Schiel

Chad SchielChad is a Marine Veteran with one tour to Iraq in 2003, a lung cancer survivor, a great father, and a big philanthropist. He is currently sitting as president of the Exchange Club San Clemente, as well as Vice Commandant of the Marine Corps League in San Clemente. He has raised thousands of dollars via social media for both Marines and Veterans, deliver dozens of free, brand new wheelchairs to Vets, chair and lead charity events, and recognize others in our community for their selfless acts of giving and volunteerism.

Daniel Sutherland

Daniel SutherlandDan wears the uniform of the retired senior volunteer sheriff patrol and trains and recruits others to do the same. He also serves in the Honor Guard. He supports our Veterans of Foreign Wars and actively aids the 1st LAR Battalion at Camp Pendleton with monetary and emotional support for soldiers and their families. He takes part in a touching and honorable flag retirement ceremony in honor of our fallen heroes each Memorial Day weekend.

Tony Teravainen

Tony TeravainenTony is a navy veteran and spent eight years on a submarine. He gives back to service members through a non-profit he co-founded called Support the Enlisted Project, serving thousands of military and veteran families in financial crisis since 2012. During the 2007 wildfires, Tony lost his home. Tony and his wife now welcome the community onto their property for gatherings, anyone in need of a place to stay, horseback riding, and raising farm animals.

Richard Villasana

Richard VillasanaRichard has worked tirelessly to assist Child Protective Services agencies around the country to locate blood relatives of children stuck in foster care - a process referred to as Family Finding. His work saves lives, allowing children (especially the un-adoptable teens) to be returned to stable family members instead of being shunted around the foster care system until they are aged out.

Janis Whitaker

Mary BeasonJanis is the founder of the VetCTAP (Veteran’s Career Transition Assistance Program). This fantastic organization helps hundreds of veterans transitioning out of the military to learn the techniques of resume writing, and many other valuable skills.

San Diego County Fire Authority Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Volunteers

San Diego County Fire Authority Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Volunteers

Each member of this team is a leader in their community as members of other volunteer organizations, such as Fire Safe Councils, community planning groups, Kiwanis clubs. The team has logged in more than 2,400 volunteers hours in the last year just for the CERT training and Disaster Preparedness outreach. The team has been activated twice in the past year to support residents during local fires and while they work quietly in the background, they have been connecting residents to resources, providing support and partnering with other organizations such as the Red Cross and Tzu Chi to make the Southern Division a better place for all.

  • Richard Alcorn
  • Eric Berger
  • Edward Boryla
  • Marilyn Burley Boryla
  • Maryetta Castro
  • Omer Castro Jr.
  • Darren Greenhalgh
  • Teresa Greenhalgh
  • Jonathon Howard
  • Marilu Howard
  • Mel Kirchmann
  • Cecelia Martes
  • Pauline Nichols
  • Lorna Stafford-Bentley
  • Sharon West
  • Sandra Wilson