Whelen Everyday Champion 2023
Nominations are now closed. Please check back for further updates.
Each year, the Whelen Everyday Champion program celebrates and recognizes outstanding emergency service departments, individuals, or groups by honoring demonstrations of bravery and courage during an act of exceptional valor, or tireless efforts making a community a better or safer place to live.
Learn more about previous champions
2022: Lexington Fire Department Community Paramedicine Team
The paramedicine team, the only one of its kind in Kentucky and one of only a few across the country, uses traditional EMS resources in a non-traditional manner to meet the needs of the community. The team works to connect the dots between struggling community members and the resources available to help them like dispatching paramedics, but not ambulances, to patients who frequently call 911 for non-emergent reasons because they don’t have anyone else to call.
The small team, formed in 2017, impacts hundreds of individuals in Lexington each year. “Community paramedicine is a win for everyone, especially the citizens whose quality of life is often improved through the services,” Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton has said in the past. The team is available seven days a week and provides training and guidance to other local first responders including firefighters, paramedics, and police officers on available resources to help the individuals they respond to.
2021: Sgt. Jeremy March
Sergeant March has been dedicated to serving his community of Mobile, Alabama for over 20 years as a member of the police department and by founding the nonprofit organization Cops for Kids. He has impacted hundreds of children through his outreach efforts and is a beloved member of the community. Affectionately known as the “Dancing Cop,” from his enthusiastic participation in community events, March spreads joy and inspires connection between police officers and the youth of Mobile.
March’s community members describe him as a local hero who devotes countless hours of his personal time developing positive relationships between local children and the police. He attends sporting events and school activities, makes hospital visits and organizes charitable events for children. “Sgt. March is a selfless and compassionate human, living a life of service for our children,” said Alisa Loper from Mobile.
2019: Andre Harris
Andre Harris rescued an infant from a burning vehicle on the night of July 27, 2018.
He was driving his tow truck back from a call when he took a detour due to a local fire department closing off a road to fight a house fire. Driving down Route 171 in Northport, Alabama, he saw a woman in the road frantically trying to flag him down. Off the shoulder and down a small hill, he noticed a car overturned and in flames. Jumping out of his truck, he asked if anyone was still inside. The woman told him her 7-month-old baby was trapped in the vehicle. She had gotten the infant out of his car seat but could not get him out of the car. The smoke was so dense that difficult for him to keep his eyes open as he felt around for the infant. The fire had increased in intensity, and he could feel the baby’s ankle. He pulled him out and cradled him in his left arm, running back up the hill to his mother. Worried that the car would burst into flames, he ushered them safely behind his tow truck.
2018: Darin Peterson & Eric Watkins (Illinois)
On July 4, 2018, a bolt of lightning shot across the sky during the fireworks display in Sheridan, Illinois as St. Charles Fire Captain Darin Peterson and his wife were sitting in their car. It hit a tree about 30 feet away. Peterson immediately ran toward the tree, where he found an 18-year-old male in cardiac arrest, a victim of the lightning strike. As Peterson began CPR, Eric Watkins, a paramedic from the Plainfield Fire Protection District, joined him to help. As the two off-duty paramedics worked together to save the teen, they heard a blood-curdling scream. A 4-year-old girl had also been hit and was unresponsive, laying on the ground. Peterson ran to help her while Watkins continued CPR on the first victim.
Both victims survived, largely in part to the quick response from both men and their administration of CPR in the first crucial minutes. They strongly encourage everyone to learn CPR and educate themselves on storm safety.
2017: Assistant Fire Chief Darren Ware & Retired Deputy Fire Chief Tyrone Wells (Prince George's County FD)
After the funeral and interment services for Fire Fighter/Medic Lieutenant John “Skillet” Ulmschneider, Assistant Fire Chief Darren Ware saw a burning car on the side of the road in Brandywine, MD, and rushed to aid the woman inside. Retired Deputy Fire Chief Tyrone Wells saw Chief Ware running alongside the road and also noticed the vehicle.
During the initial extrication attempt, the driver pushed the accelerator, causing her vehicle to move forward and further down the embankment. The position of the vehicle prevented extrication from the driver’s side of the vehicle, but they were able to gain access and pull her through the passenger window.
2016: Brandi Kamper (Fort Worth PD)
In March of 2016, Officer Brandi Kamper rushed to the aid of fellow Officer Matt Pearce who was shot seven times when in pursuit of a fugitive. Kamper served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic, and she and a SWAT officer entered a thickly wooded area to locate Pearce.
Dressed in civilian clothing and with no weapons or body armor, Officer Kamper immediately began assessing and triaging Officer Pearce’s injuries, despite the danger of being in an open area. She applied a tourniquet to his leg, used a pressure bandage on his arm, and dressed three bullet wounds on his chest and shoulder. Kamper, along with other officers then carried Pearce up a wet, muddy hill to get him to a helicopter.
2015: Rich Petras, Ron Vargo, David Shantery (Cleveland FD)
“We were just driving down St. Clair and just happened to see it,” said firefighter Rich Petras. “We were just talking, driving to go pick up somebody and just happened to look over and saw the fire.”
By the time they arrived, the first floor was already engulfed in flames. “There were numerous neighbors and what not on the street alerting us to the fact that there were children in the home,” said firefighter Ron Vargo.
A 10-year-old boy was trapped in his bedroom as the firefighters scrambled to put on their gear. “We heard him screaming for only a short period,” said firefighter David Shantery.
Shantery and Vargo were able to get to the boy, who was soon unconscious, and brought him out. At the same time, firefighter Kenneth Guyton was at the back of the home, helping the boy’s 8-year-old sister who had jumped to save herself.
2014: Jay Farmer (Washington State Patrol)
On a cold October morning in 2013, a car careened off I-90 in Ellensburg, Washington and crashed into a freezing pond. There was one man inside the vehicle.
When Trooper Jay Farmer responded to the emergency call, he immediately began to plan for a water rescue. Armed with a baton, Farmer entered the frigid pond, and a bystander jumped in to help as well. Trooper Farmer and the bystander swam out to the vehicle where it was nearly fully submerged. Farmer broke the passenger window with his baton and could hear the driver yelling for help from underwater. From the roof of the vehicle Farmer was able to pop the door open and free the driver from his seat belt, and the two men helped him ashore.