Kindness. Honesty. Generosity. Courage.
These were just a handful of the character qualities honored at the 2019 Mayor’s Character Breakfast on Thursday. Twelve citizens and one business were awarded for exceptional demonstration of a specific character quality through their service to family and community at the event, held at The Pavilion at John Knox Village.
“The awards recognize everyday citizens who are not necessarily in leadership roles, but who lead by inspiring others.” said Rachel Segobia, director of Lee’s Summit CARES, the nonprofit community coalition that hosts the annual event.
Award recipients chosen by the city’s Character Council are selected from dozens of nominations submitted throughout the year. Council members represent nine sectors in the community: family, schools, city government, law enforcement, parks and recreation, media, business, faith, and health care. Each year, 11 Reflections of Character awards, one Ethics in Business award and one Lifetime Achievement award are presented at the breakfast.
This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Shirley Fearon, founder and former president of the nonprofit ReDiscover, which provides mental health programs for individuals and families throughout the metro area.
Beginning in 1968, Fearon obtained federal block grant funding to establish the center, formed a treatment team and conducted a “buy-a-brick” campaign to build the first ReDiscover facility. Over the years, she was also instrumental in identifying the need for statewide coordination of mental-health services and helped established the Missouri Coalition of Community Mental Health Centers.
“Over the past 50 years, hundreds of thousands of people across the Lee’s Summit, Raytown and south Kansas City area have benefited from the vision, drive and dedication of this brilliant and remarkable lady,” said Holly Carothers, one of Fearon’s nominees.
Josh Haddad received this year’s Perseverance Award. In December 2017, Haddad’s wife, Cara, lost a several year battle with breast cancer. In April, four months after losing Cara, Haddad started the Fight Dirty Foundation to help others who are facing their own struggles with cancer.
“Cara was our inspiration,” said Haddad, who is the father of three young children. “After our own family’s cancer journey, we saw how many people are affected by this disease — all cancers. We felt like we could make a real impact by sharing our experiences and letting others know they’re not alone.”
Fight Dirty’s mission is to provide both financial assistance and personal support to local families affected by cancer. During 2018, the group focused on the Lee’s Summit community but has plans to expand their outreach to the entire metro area.
“When we started, we didn’t know what ‘support’ meant, or how we would provide it,” Haddad said. “We quickly learned that support is simply letting others know they’re not alone.
“We don’t give and then just go away. We want to create a community that helps when needed. Being available, listening and understanding is a big part of that. We went through a long journey when we lost Cara. We’re taking a terrible situation and turning it into a positive for myself, my children and for others. My children and I are still persevering.”
This year’s keynote speaker was 11-year social media activist, Olivia Van Ledtje.
Ledtje, also known as “Liv Bits,” travels the country inspiring students to practice “Digital Citizenship” by being engaged in social media and using it for good. After delivering the keynote, she visited several area schools and worked with student groups to implement some of her ideas.
The breakfast, attended by more than 700 guests, was the collaborative effort of many partners, including St. Luke’s East Hospital, Flooring and More Concepts and Just Frame It.
Nominations for the 2020 Mayor’s Character Breakfast can be made online. Nominations are due by Wednesday, October 9, 2019. The 2020 Mayor’s Character Breakfast will be held January 23, 2020.
2019 Mayor’s Character Breakfast Award winners
Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient: Shirley Fearon
Ethics in Business Recipient: Cartridge World of Lee’s Summit
Reflections of Character Award Recipients
Aubrey Newell, Sariah Fouladi, Alex Anderson, Ivette Salgado, Scott Wright, Morgan McGurk, Josh Haddad, Brianne Orr, Jo Pickert, John Knox Village Hobby Hut Volunteers., Justin Hamilton and Craig Lingholm