Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

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The Andy Nowacki Foundation “Heroes for Andy”

 

Lance Corporal Andy “Ace” Nowacki was 25 years old when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Babil Province, Iraq in 2005. Here at home he was a police officer for Grand River, Ohio. In both places, Andy’s job was to serve and protect, and his parents Denis and Sheila Nowacki decided to honor his commitment with a scholarship fund for American heroes, just like Andy.

More than 400 guests crowded the halls of the Hilton Garden Inn, Mayfield, to honor Andy, scholarship recipients Bethany Lincoln, Alicia Sephus and Drew Miller, and to recognize seven other local heroes throughout the evening. Guests enjoyed cocktails and appetizers while viewing items available through the silent and chance auctions. American Legion Post 807 Posted The Colors before dinner and remarks, and dancing followed with music provided by Sumrada, Bobby Leach and The Belletones.

Eight to 10 young adults apply for the Nowacki scholarship every year. The applicants are screened and meet with a committee which is looking for students pursuing a career in the military, in law enforcement or firefighting, but most importantly have the “spirit of Andy” in their willingness to serve their country. Since police officers must be 21 in Ohio, often the scholars attend junior college before attending a four-year institution, using the Scholarship money for both degrees. Organizers for the Scholarship Fund describe how there are no partial scholarships, recipients are adopted “for life.” In fact, the very first Scholarship recipient from 2007, Shannon Darby, spoke about her career as a police officer for The Cleveland Clinic, and finishing her Master’s Degree, all thanks to the Nowacki scholarship. There have been 37 Scholarship recipients in the past 10 years.

Others recognized during the event were Robert Zonneville, a much-decorated WWII veteran and fundraiser for the Hospice of the Western Reserve, and Bob and Susan Conkey, retired Marie Corps veterans who campaigned and made a major gift to The Greater Cleveland Fisher House, which provides military families housing close to a loved one during hospitalization. Patrol officer Christopher Olup and Sgt. Robert Prochazka were honored for rescuing a disabled resident from his burning house. Officer Bill Smith and Lt. Toby Burgett were also honored for saving the life of a suicidal man in 2016.

Guests were a unique blend of civilians, Marines, police officers, firefighters, State Senators, judges, students and family, all brought together to honor Andy Nowacki, and to turn his sacrifice into hope for a new generation. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY RITA KUEBER

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