Angels Among Us 2004

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By utahvalley360.com

Nothing fills our mailbox faster than when we ask you to tell us about “angels” in our community. You love nominating your friends and neighbors, and we love interviewing and photographing these quiet stalwarts.

This year we’ve picked six heroes to share with you. Get out a box of hankies and prepare to be inspired by these givers. Then, resolve to do what you can to improve your family and community. We’ll be looking for six angels to feature next year, and we may just pick you.

Because at age 79 he still loves children : Ralph Reingold, Orem

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Ralph Reingold is a Renaissance man.

He speaks five languages (English, Spanish, French, German and Hebrew), holds a master’s degree from an Ivy League school, was a fighter pilot in the Canadian Air Force during World War II and has worked as a substitute teacher at nearly every school in Orem.

But it’s the work that he does for Orem elementary school students as part of the Foster Grandparent Program that brings him the most joy. Since he moved to Utah from California in 1991 to help his wife care for her sick daughter, the Quebec native has been volunteering and working with children throughout the community in a variety of ways. He has driven a truck for the local food bank, has served neglected and abused children and has worked with head-start programs. Most recently, however, his foster grandparent duties have led him to a fifth grade classroom at Westmore Elementary in Orem.

“I love working with the kids,” Ralph says. “Everything is so new to them, and they love to learn.”

Ralph was assigned as a teacher’s assistant at Westmore this past year where he worked with teacher Bob Turner for four hours each day.

“I love working with the teachers,” Ralph says. “They are awesome, and they do so much for their kids.”

While Ralph does get a small stipend for working as a foster grandparent (less than $2 an hour) he donates that money to charity. For him, the payment that he receives is held in a scrapbook — not in his wallet. His scrapbook is complete with letters of appreciation from teachers and parents. It has photos from class field trips. And each child he’s pictured with symbolizes perhaps 100 others that he’s worked with along the way.

“I don’t do any of this for the money, obviously,” he says. “This is my life, and I enjoy it immensely.”

The four hours a day that he works with students and teachers at Westmore aren’t enough for the hard-working man. He also volunteers at the Orem Department of Public Safety.

“The ladies who work here tell me I keep things running,” he says with a smile. “I don’t know if that’s true, but I sure like helping out.”

While he helps with a number of things such as filing in the records department, his main role is to help with the free fingerprinting service Orem offers every afternoon.

Despite preparing for his 80th birthday in October, Ralph is stilling adding things to his “to-do” list.

“I want to do more for children who have cancer,” he says.

His heart goes out to adults as well as children. He is an electrician and uses his skills to do work for elderly people. They pay for the electrical supplies, and he does the work for free.

“I enjoy doing it and they enjoy the break it gives them in their wallet,” Ralph says.

And the payment Ralph receives will go in his service scrapbook, not in his wallet.

Because she saw a family’s need and filled it : Ashlee Roberts, Lindon

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Five months after Ashlee Roberts moved to her Lindon neighborhood with her husband and two children she was approached to help a neighborhood father who had recently lost his wife, leaving him with three daughters. Although she had never met the girls, she signed up to watch them for two days while the father was making arrangements following his wife’s unexpected death.

She loved the time she spent with the girls and grew to know each of them well. However, as the school year approached, she noticed a specific way she could continue to help the family.

“As it got closer to the school year, I noticed the girls’ bangs were getting long and that most of the time they came over with their hair not done or just brushed out straight,” Ashlee says. “I approached their dad and asked if I could do their hair before school every day.”

It was a part of his daughters’ life that David Adams hadn’t thought of.

“He had so many things to worry about, there’s no way he would have thought of that,” Ashlee says.

So, when school started in the fall of 2002, the two youngest daughters, Brittney and Brandi Adams, walked over to Ashlee’s home to get their hair done. While the ritual rarely lasted more than 20 minutes, it was time that Ashlee and the girls began to look forward to.

“I would ask them about their homework and if they’d had breakfast,” Ashlee says. “They were very open with me and I got to know a lot about them.”

For the next 18 months during the school year, Ashlee did the two girls’ hair. Other neighbors began to hear about what Ashlee was doing and anonymously donated hair clips and barrettes. One neighbor delivered a book that contained different hairstyle ideas that the girls enjoyed picking out — and seeing if Ashlee could pull off.

“I definitely improved my hairstyling skills,” she says.

The family received an outpouring of support from the entire neighborhood, especially from the mothers.

“No mother wants to think about what would happen if she wasn’t there,” Ashlee says, “but that thinking made us more aware of the needs of these girls. I would hope that someone would help my family in the same situation.”

But the service Ashlee rendered to the two girls — now ages 11 and 8 — went beyond doing hair. The girls would talk about things weighing on their minds, including their feelings about suddenly losing their mother.

Just recently the two stopped coming over to get their hair done. Ashlee had taught Brittney how to do a ponytail, and Brandi can now braid hair. So now all three girls can handle their own hair.

“I miss them coming over,” Ashlee says. “I knew what was going on in their lives. Of course, I couldn’t really do much about most of it, except worry about them.”

Ashlee still sees the girls — they recently helped her run a yard sale — and enjoys talking with them about what is happening in their lives. In fact, her son bellows that the “Big Girls” are riding their bikes past the house and wants them to come over and play.

As Ashlee prepares to have her third child in August, she can’t help but think about another mother who was looking down, glad that someone was doing something small to help her girls.

“Shortly after my wife passed away, Ashlee Roberts came to me and asked if I had someone to do the girls’ hair before school. I had never even thought about that. For the next 1 1/2 years every morning before school they would go over to her house and she would spend time and do up their hair — most of the time it was very fancy. They are now able to do their own hair because of her.” — David Adams

Because she joined the fight to cure cancer: Alison Hayes Larsen, Lehi

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In September 2002, just weeks after finding out her mother had pancreatic cancer, Alison Hayes Larsen of Lehi had a dream that she was the producer of a play in an auditorium full of people. She remembers counting the $1 million in profits at the end of the night.

The details of the play, the venue and the actors were all sketchy, but the dream put into Alison’s mind the idea of a fund-raiser she could do to help families like hers.

“It did little more than give me a thought and lead to a conversation with my mom,” Alison says.

But that thought — to raise money to fight pancreatic cancer — never left.

About a year after Alison had the dream her mother died from the cancer that caused complications with her liver and kidneys.

A few weeks later on a road trip just before Thanksgiving 2003, Alison had an idea: a live nativity. She and her family had been to one during a previous Christmas and her mind began spinning about how a nativity could be a great fund-raiser.

Her husband, Garon, agreed it could work — for next year.

“He didn’t know if we could put it together in three weeks,” Alison says. “I made Garon promise that if I found a barn and some costumes, he would help me.”

Garon agreed. Alison borrowed costumes from the Alpine LDS Stake. She also found the perfect barn across the street from her mother and father’s Alpine home. The barn belonged to Bertha Adams and her husband, John Q., who passed away this spring.

“Most of the barns we had looked at either had animals in them or were full of storage,” Alison says. “I had almost forgotten about this barn across the street from where I had grown up. It worked out perfectly.”

With the barn in place and family ready to help, Alison organized carolers, hayrides, parking at a local LDS Church meetinghouse and several couples with newborns to play the parts of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus. Local animal owners let Alison borrow sheep and donkeys to complete the scene.

Alison’s goals were small. She and her father, Gary Hayes, thought $1,000 over two nights would be a success. Alison didn’t charge visitors, but donations were accepted. The two nights of the live nativity brought about 1,500 visitors — helped greatly by a story featured on Salt Lake City’s ABC 4. The two nights raised $3,000 — every penny of which was donated to the Huntsman Cancer Institute — for the newly created Irene Hayes Pancreatic Cancer Fund.

“We didn’t know what to expect, but the response was tremendous,” Alison says.

And Alison is looking forward to this year’s nativity, which will be held over three nights — the Friday, Saturday and Monday before Christmas.

“We have some things to do to make it better for this year,” Alison says. “We’re going to get the word out a little more and I would like to add some more people to the scene.”

Although the “production” hasn’t earned $1 million yet like the one in Alison’s dream, she is optimistic that it will continue to grow. She knows it’s the little things that add up to big things.

“I know we’re doing something,” she says. “Even if the money that we raise will only pay for one tissue to dry an eye, we’re doing something.”

Because her grief motivated her to help others in mourning: Julie Bolton, Provo

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Service is in Julie Bolton’s blood.

When she was young, her family vacations were to Tijuana, Mexico, where her father would deliver clothing, health supplies and other humanitarian aid to the people living there as part of his duties in the Rotary Club.

Her great-great grandfather helped create a hospital for the underprivileged in his native Vienna, Austria.

So for Julie, it wasn’t a matter of if she would serve others, but how.

“Sometimes when my parents have told me I should slow down, I haven’t known what to tell them,” she says. “Now that I’ve thought about it, I just tell them it’s their fault.”

Julie’s path to service began with a series of heartbreaks.

Eleven years ago Julie was traveling home from a routine check-up during her third pregnancy when she was involved in a serious car accident that caused her to go into labor. Six weeks after Sarah was born, she died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The grief led Julie and her husband to move back to California for a change of scenery and so Julie’s parents could help her recover from her accident-induced injuries.

A month to the day after Sarah died, Julie’s husband died while sailing with family and friends. Julie’s husband’s body has never been found.

“The kids and I started attending grief counseling while we were in California,” Julie says. “When we came back to Utah we realized that there wasn’t anything like that for families here.”

Julie started meeting with fellow sufferers at the former Provo library on Center Street. Eventually, she was contacted by Vivian Olsen and asked to become a member of the board for the newly created Canary Gardens.

“Canary Gardens is a place where all members of the family can come and enjoy support through the grieving process,” Julie says.

Participants are grouped by age as they work through the grieving process with trained volunteers and professionals. Children as young as 4 seek help from the Canary Gardens. An adult class is made up of parents who are suffering as well. Group meetings are held weekly at the Provo Teen Center, and there is no charge to participate. The program is funded through private donations.

In addition to serving on the board of Canary Gardens, Julie is also the county coordinator for the SIDS Alliance, which is a support group for families who have lost an infant to SIDS as well as an educational group that seeks to minimize the risk of SIDS through educating the community.

“It’s a hard thing to deal with because it’s only called ‘SIDS’ when everything else has been ruled out,” Julie says. “Parents have to be investigated by police, and often that is just as trying to the family as losing the child.”

And as if the other two groups didn’t keep her busy enough, Julie was recently certified as an instructor for r.a.d.Kids (Resisting Aggression Defensively) — a program that is geared toward educating children about how to deal with emergency situations including attempted abduction. It has been instituted in P.E. classes at elementary schools throughout the Provo School District.

“I like what that program does for the kids,” Julie says. “It gives them confidence. It educates them in how to defend themselves and makes them more aware of what’s going on around them.”

She is also the PTA President for Dixon Middle School in Provo and works as a private genealogist.

The variety of hats Julie wears all seem to fit. After all, service is part of her genetic makeup.

Because this soldier is not at ease unless he’s giving back: Paul Diamond, Pleasant Grove

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Paul R. Diamond felt happy and guilty as he recovered from his knee surgery during last year’s holiday season.

The happiness came from enjoying the company of his family and cool temperatures in Utah County at Christmastime.

The guilt came from knowing that Paul had left friends in Iraq when he was sent home to Pleasant Grove to take care of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He had been deployed to Iraq as part of the 142nd Military Intelligence Unit of the Utah Army National Guard and was sent home before the rest of his unit to have the surgery.

“They were all excited for me to get to come home, but I felt awful,” Paul says. “I told some of them that I didn’t want to go, and they all told me I was crazy and to get on the plane.”

This linguistic specialist decided he was going to do something to help his fellow soldiers instead of feeling guilty during his paid recovery time at his home. That’s when a little bit of parachute cord on his right wrist reminded him of an idea he had while in Iraq.

“I made bracelets out of parachute cord while I was over there and some of my friends there liked them and asked if I would make them some as well,” Paul says. “I decided that I would make some of them and sell them as a way to raise money so I could send care packages to my friends in Iraq.”

Paul and his wife, Ginger, eventually found 26 colors of parachute cord and sold custom-made bracelets.

Paul contacted his commanding officer in Iraq and asked what he should do with the money he had raised. The officer explained that his unit was doing well and that he should use the money to take care of families left behind in Utah. If he had other money left over he could gather supplies for an orphanage the unit worked with in Iraq.

“I worked with (Utah National Guard) Family Services and they already had a Sub-for-Santa program going, so we used some of the money to help three soldiers’ families in the area,” Paul says. “That was a great Christmas.”

After the holidays passed, he continued his program — O.S.C.A.R. (Operation Show Charity Always Remember) — by coordinating humanitarian donations to be sent to orphans in Iraq. Eventually, with the help of others including a pair of Eagle Scout candidates, O.S.C.A.R. was able to donate 12 pallets of clothing, toys, hygiene products and other humanitarian supplies to Operation Give — a larger humanitarian program.

“From mid-February to mid-March our house looked like a D.I.,” Paul says.

Although Paul’s unit has now returned to Utah, he is still hoping to do more for troops in Iraq. He and his wife have turned bracelet making into a business, with a significant percentage of profits assisting soldiers and their families.

“That’s the neatest part of the American spirit,” Paul says. “People here don’t just talk about doing things. They get up and do something. That is what makes America so great.”

Because her hands are reaching across the globe: Kathy Headlee, Cedar Hills

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Kathy Headlee is a mother who sees beauty and potential in all children.

She also sees children as our world’s future and is striving to change that future one child at a time.

Kathy, who lives in Cedar Hills, created the nonprofit organization “Mothers Without Borders,” which has grown into a global network of men and women committed to ending the suffering and uncertainty of orphaned and vulnerable children.

Her mission started in the early ‘90s when she was personally touched by the need in Romanian orphanages. She adopted a young girl named Elena, who is now 14, from Romania.

In the mid-’90s she became aware of the AIDS epidemic and moved her attention toward Africa. The organization now primarily focuses on Africa and the millions of children left as orphans due to AIDS.

“Our mission is nurturing and caring for orphaned and vulnerable children as if they were our own,” says Kathy. “The way we do that is we look for ways to strengthen the local community so they can better care for the orphans within their midst.”

“I have seen mothers overcome insurmountable odds for their children — that was the inspiration for the name [Mothers without Borders] — it doesn’t have to be just women involved, but the name is in honor of the importance of mothers and what they do for their children,” Kathy says. The organization strives to “do for children what their mothers would do if their mothers were there.”

Kathy says the ideal use of resources is to take monetary donations and buy products from within their economy, thus stimulating and strengthening their communities (i.e., buying a needed blanket for a child from a blanket maker within the community).

Mothers Without Borders tries to strike a balance between taking donated money and goods as charitable contributions, but also fabric and materials to teach self-sufficiency by showing how to make items they need themselves.

“We can turn it into a vocation so they can support themselves,” she says.

Kathy spends about a third of each year in Zambia or Ethiopia.

Mothers Without Borders collects donations of a variety of materials to take to the villages including sewing kits and material, gardening tools, household repair and carpentry tools, medical supplies, household items and educational supplies.

“Last year we collected over $100,000 in relief supplies and distributed them to more than 60,000 women and children in Zambia,” Kathy says. “For every child we can help, it is wonderful, but I also see 500 more who are waiting.”

Mothers without Borders receives help from Relief Society groups, scouts, women’s clubs and Eagle Scout projects. Their Web site (www.motherswithoutborders.org) lists current efforts and gives guidelines for those who want to participate.

“I really believe it will take governments, churches, businesses and individuals all working together,” Kathy says. “Working together, we can find solutions for these children.”

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