Seven exceptional Tri-Valley residents were honored during the fifth annual Tri-Valley Heroes awards ceremony Monday night, presented by Embarcadero Media's East Bay Division, which includes DanvilleSanRamon.com and the Pleasanton Weekly.
Since 2012, the awards have recognized Tri-Valley individuals and groups that put in substantial effort improving their communities.
"It is a humbling experience to hear of all the work being done by volunteers -- many working behind the scenes -- to improve our communities and the lives of our neighbors," Gina Channell, East Bay Division president and publisher, said to the audience during the evening event at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Pleasanton at the Club.
"We are surrounded by some amazing people who have done extraordinary things," Channell added.
Award recipients were nominated by community members, and recognitions were given across seven categories.
This year's recipients were Don Lewis, Arts and Culture; Melanie Sadek, Community Spirit; Kaitlin Gallagher, Courage; Cristina Hill, Innovation; Connor Bruce, Rising Star; Lars Ho-Tseung, Role Model; and Mike Doyle, Lifetime Achievement.
"Whatever lifestyle you have adopted, make sure that you are helping someone else to create that which they were given to do," said Lewis, a Pleasanton resident and pioneer in synthesizer use and technology. He added that he was "honored to be a part of this class."
About 125 residents attended the ceremony to support and congratulate the honorees, as well as watch them each say a few words after accepting their award.
Elected officials in attendance -- in addition to Doyle, a longtime Danville Town Council member -- included Danville Mayor Karen Stepper, Danville councilmen Newell Arnerich and Robert Storer, Pleasanton Vice Mayor Kathy Narum, Pleasanton City Councilman Jerry Pentin and Contra Costa County Supervisor Candace Andersen, chair of the Board of Supervisors.
The honorees received a crystal award from Embarcadero Media and certificates of recognition from Andersen, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, Assemblywoman Catharine Baker and State Senator Steve Glazer.
Gallagher, the Courage recipient for battling through cancer with optimism and using her experience to help others, told the audience that she is cancer-free and working three jobs while attending San Francisco State University. The 20-year-old from Pleasanton said it took this experience for her to realize that "courage happens every single day."
"It takes courage to give back to the community that gave courage to me," Gallagher said. "It is because of you all that I have won this award -- it is because of your courage that keeps me courageous."
Doyle, the Lifetime Achievement recipient recognized in light of his 25-year service on the Danville Town Council, spoke of how he fell in love with the Tri-Valley in 1952 when the Air Force sent him to Pleasanton to help open a basic training base.
"I truly, absolutely love Danville and what I'm doing there," said Doyle, who is retiring from the council later this year. "It's going to be a hard decision to leave, but I know it's in good hands."
He added, "It is truly an honor to be among these heroes, who I recognize from the bottom of my heart what great things they do for their own communities."
Each honoree was selected for making outstanding contributions in their community, including the following accomplishments:
Arts and Culture
For acknowledgment/recognition of achievements or contributions within the area of arts and culture.
Lewis, a Pleasanton resident began playing piano as a Dayton, Ohio, high school student. Later, at the Tuskegee Institute, he accompanied and sang with the Tuskegee Chorus and played for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Freedom Rallies.
Uniting his interest in engineering with his musical talent, Lewis became one of the pioneers in synthesizer use and technology. In 1977, he designed and built a synthesizer system that was an inspiration for Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), now on display at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad.
For selfless, tireless and largely unacknowledged actions that have enriched or improved the quality of life for the local community.
In addition to serving as the executive director at the nonprofit Valley Humane Society, Pleasanton resident Sadek is currently working toward seeing state legislation introduced that would change current law from requiring all school campuses to be available as a polling location and limit it to campuses that are able to maintain their existing security protocols while polling is taking place.
Sadek is also an expert in laws pertaining to highway safety issues like graduated driver licensing, DUI and child passenger safety. She has influenced legislation throughout the country and trained hundreds of nurses, firefighters and police personnel as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration child passenger safety technicians.
For an act of bravery or for determination and strength of character to triumph over adversity.
At the age of 15, as an Amador Valley High School sophomore, Gallagher was diagnosed with Stage 4 acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
The Pleasanton resident battled through chemotherapy, surgeries and scans with optimism, never asking, "Why me?" but instead, "Why not me?"
Now, as a 20-year-old cancer survivor, she has taken an experience that could have been devastating and uses it to help others.
Sharing her story with groups large and small comprised of people from all walks of life, Gallagher raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, pointing out that every dollar donated to fight cancer counts, "as does every minute volunteered for the cause."
For a person, group or business who apply innovative ideas or programs to enhance the community.
While a student at California High School, San Ramon resident Hill created a technology program to serve an often-overlooked group of tech users -- senior citizens.
To earn her Gold Award, the highest recognition in Girl Scouts, Hill wanted to bridge the technology gap for older adults and dispel the myth that social media is difficult to learn.
Hill's "Seniors in Touch" program included informative presentations and one-on-one mentoring sessions. Participants learned how to create a Facebook profile, access the internet, create emails, add picture attachments to emails, shop online, use their smartphone more effectively and keep in touch with friends and family.
Now studying as a freshman at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, Hill could not attend the award ceremony in person but used her technology savvy to participate, via FaceTime. Her mother, Sylvia San Miguel, accepted the award on her behalf.
An individual between 10 and 18 whose services directly benefit Tri-Valley citizens through outstanding volunteer work, serving as a community role model and mentor or demonstrating random acts of kindness.
A Monte Vista High School graduate in June, Blackhawk resident Bruce was singled out by national sports publication Sports Illustrated as its High School Athlete of the Month for April for his leadership on the baseball field and for his commitment to helping local special-needs children develop their love of the game.
In addition to volunteering with Danville Little League's Challenger Division, Bruce supported special-needs youth on the Monte Vista campus, as a leader of the school's Friends of the Special Olympics Club and through efforts to help encourage equality, inclusion and anti-stereotyping among his peers.
He continues to support Special Olympics as a volunteer in North Carolina, where he is now a freshman at North Carolina State University, his mother Kim Bruce said while accepting the Tri-Valley Heroes Award on his behalf Monday night.
For displaying common sense, compassion and wisdom while teaching, coaching and mentoring others with a vision for people to strive to be the best they can be.
Ho-Tseung has dedicated years of service to the benefit of local youth. As a Pleasanton resident, he has coached youth softball, baseball, soccer and golf teams and had leadership roles in the YMCA's Guides and Princesses programs.
Through fundraising activities, Ho-Tseung has helped raise more than $500,000 for the Tri-Valley YMCA to provide fee subsidies so low-income children can go to camp and participate in before- and after-school programs.
Recognizes an individual or group for contributions, leadership, enthusiasm, and tireless efforts on behalf of his or her community and neighbors.
Doyle is retiring this year after serving on the Danville Town Council since 1991, including five turns as mayor during his tenure, with the most recent coming last year when he was 85.
Among his many years of public service, the Danville resident has represented the town on a variety of local and regional committees and organizations. Doyle also served in the Air Force in Germany post World War II and was part of the Berlin Airlift.
This year's Tri-Valley Heroes program is sponsored by Black Tie Transportation, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pleasanton at the Club, Robert Half, Monterey Private Wealth, Harrington Art Partnership, San Ramon Arts Foundation and Crown Trophy.
Profiles on each award recipient will run as a series in the Pleasanton Weekly and online at PleasantonWeekly.com and DanvilleSanRamon.com beginning later this fall.