Heroes: Connor Mullen

Feb. 3, 2006

Coach Steve Alford’s nationally ranked Iowa Hawkeyes will be looking for another home victory over another nationally ranked opponent when Michigan visits Carver-Hawkeye Arena Saturday afternoon.

Judy Rozek and Connor Mullen will be among the 15,500 fans in attendance as a result of Connor being selected as the “Hero Among Us” for the Iowa-Ohio State game. The program is an initiative of Alford and the Iowa Hawkeyes and an effort to recognize the neighbors, co-workers and friends among us that are doing extraordinary things.

Click HERE to learn more about the program and how to nominate someone you think is doing extraordinary things for your school, your church or your community.

February 4, 2006

Nominator: Judy Rozek
Hero: Connor Mullen

My Hawkeye Hero is my 9 year old grandson Connor Mullen and his parents of Minburn, Iowa.

April 28, 2005, Connor was diagnosed with acute leukemia. Although he is in remission, his treatment course has had multiple set backs. In August, he was in Blank Hospital for 18 days. Many times we thought Connor was going to die. Our family was on an emotional roller coaster. But with a prayer chain of over one thousand people and the grace of God, Connor survived surgery.

His treatments will last over 3 years and 3 months. He goes once a week to the clinic in Des Moines for chemotherapy. He is attending school but usually has to miss the day of treatment.

The reasons Connor is my hero are:

He and his parents (Gary and Laurie) are helping Rev. Curt Chizek start a mission church in Waukee, Iowa. They hope to reach unchurched people. Gary works with the youth. Connor shares his faith in Jesus with the children.

Connor is active in Boy Scouts. One activity they do is collecting food for the local food bank.

Connor and his sister, Abbie (5 yrs) took their piggy banks to school to give the money for the hurricane victims.

Connor is a TAG student at school (ADM). He is a very sensitive young boy. His teachers praise him for his kindness to children with learning disabilities. He is well liked at school.

Because of the temporary neuropathy and immunosuppressant from the chemo, Connor is unable to play baseball and basketball for now. He loves and watches our Hawkeyes faithfully.

If Connor would be privileged to be a Hawkeye Hero, I only have one request. Their home is a 2 ½ to 3 drive to Iowa City. During the week, he needs to go to bed around 8 PM. A weekend game would be best for him.

Thank you for this program, I think it is a great idea. Wishing you and the Hawks a Big Ten Championship and a NCAA bid.


Judy Rozek

January 28, 2006
Iowa-Ohio State

Nominator: Carol Werner
Hero: Kate Theide

I am nominating my neighbor and friend Kate Theide because she is such a good friend to all.

Kate is always there for so many people. She works at the church no matter what is going on (funeral, wedding, bazaar etc) and always donates something and all of her time.

Kate was married to Bill for many years but when he died suddenly she moved to the town of Wilton. She does so much for so many. She is 82 years old but can still drive at least in Wilton. For many years when able she drove people to Iowa City for doctor appointments or to Davenport for the same. Since we do not have mail delivery she goes to the post office during the day and picks up mail for several people that are unable to get out. She also picks up groceries for many of the same people. There are several that need to be taken to the doctor or pharmacy so good ole Kate picks them up and takes them where ever. She never asks for anything and gets insulted if people try to pay her. Sometimes she will let you buy her breakfast or lunch. If she knows that I will be gone she always stops for a few minutes to check on my mother who is 90. If mom is not feeling well she will come back later to check a second time. She never feels that she is worthy of any praise but in my book she is one sweet and caring lady. I know there are probably other things she does that I don’t know about but everyone loves Kate.

She loves to watch your basketball games on TV so I think it would be a great treat for her to come to a game.


Carol Werner

January 24, 2006

Nominator: Dee Ommen
Hero: Scott Ommen

Scott is currently serving in Iraq as part of the 224th ENG BN. He has been in Iraq since January 2005. During the first 4-5 months there, he lost 3 of his close friends in the war field due to IED’s and a sniper. He continues to go on more missions than many of the soldiers in his unit, knowing there is a risk involved. He was involved in an IED/truck incident where his truck became disabled. Everyone in the vehicle sustained injury, Scott received a Purple Heart award. He continues to be a leader and keeps focused all the while hurting and not being able to process the loss of his friends.

January 18, 2006

Nominator: Sharon Phillips
Hero: Dave Phillips

In March 2002, Dave Phillips (my husband) initiated a new outreach program at our church called the Garden Ministry. His vision was to “take a bite out of hunger” by growing fresh vegetables and distributing them to organizations that serve low-income families, such as food pantries and meal sites. That first year, with the help of 12 volunteers working one-tenth of an acre, 2400 lbs of fresh vegetables were provided to 3 organizations. Through Dave’s hard work, the Garden Ministry has grown with each subsequent year: more land, more volunteers, more vegetables and more recipients. In 2005, from one acre of land nearly 100 volunteers provided 23,923 lbs of vegetables to 23 organizations serving the hungry. In the four years of its existence, the Garden Ministry has produced over 63,250 lbs of produce including potatoes, corn, tomatoes, onions, beans and melons. That’s nearly 32 tons!

Dave works tirelessly on this project devoting many hours each day to planning, organizing, planting, watering, weeding, harvesting and distributing. He will be the first to tell you he doesn’t do it alone, but without Dave’s vision, passion, faith and drive, the Garden Ministry would have floundered long ago. He is a hero to me, to the members of our church, and to thousands of the less fortunate who have enjoyed fresh vegetables at their dinner tables. Dave is truly making a difference in the Quad-Cities!

January 7, 2006

Nominator: Nancy Fick
Hero: LeAnn Tatman

LeAnn is a friend and colleague. We used to be coworkers at UIHC. LeAnn, and her husband Dave, were instrumental in relocating a displaced family from New Orleans to Iowa City. She arranged housing, spread the word for donations to furnish the housing (2 apartments) and stock the closets with clothes and the cupboards with food. They even made arrangements to purchase a van for the family. The extended family comprises a grandma and grandpa, mom and dad, and three young children. LeAnn was tireless in making arrangements from Des Moines, West Branch and Iowa City. LeAnn is not only a Hawkeye fan, she is a true Iowa Hero! She continues to maintain close contact with the family.

December 22, 2005
Iowa-Robert Morris

Nominator: Tanya Kapler
Hero: Christian Kapler

My husband, Christian Kapler, is a solider in the Iowa Army National Guard. He is currently deployed to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for military training before leaving to Iraq shortly after the first of the year. He will then be gone for at least another year. (He has been gone since October 7, 2005.) This deployment came shortly after we got married on September 1, 2005. So it has been tough on the whole family.

Not that I don’t think that all soldiers are heroes, but him being a soldier is not what makes him a hero in my eyes. I have known Christian for almost two years. In those two years I have seen that man do so much for other people. Christian comes from a family where both his parents are blind. He lived with his mother till the day that we got married, helping her with everything that she needed. When we got married he always found time to help his mother and his father.

Christian and I met through some mutual friends, Ben and Kelly Driscoll. The home is a single income home, so with Kelly home with two young children, it is hard to go places when you just maybe need a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread. Kelly would call Christian and he would drop whatever he was doing and help her. A lot of that had to do with the fact that Ben and Christian grew up together as friends and made a promise to always take care of the other’s family if the other was gone.

My husband and I started dating in the month of July 2005 and the next month we were engaged and the rest is history. The thing that I believe that makes him a hero in my eyes the most is, I came into this relationship with almost a three-year-old son, Jeremiah. Before and after we got married, you could see how much Christian loved Jeremiah. I thought there was no one alive that could love my son as much as my husband. He took that responsibility like he had been his father all of Jeremiah’s life. Christian and I have only been married a little over two months and Jeremiah already calls him `Daddy.’ Christian has already told me that as soon as he can he will adopt Jeremiah. I believe my husband is the biggest hero in my eyes, not only my but I know my, our son already thinks of his daddy as a hero.

Thanks for reading this nomination and I hope that you will consider my husband a hero in your eyes too.

Tanya Kapler, a very proud wife

December 20, 2005

Nominator: Howard Samek
Hero: Jen Samek

My daughter, Jen, is a senior at the UI. She is also the Bionic Bus Supervisor for the UI Cambus system. This means she is responsible for every facet of providing bus rides for all handicapped people in the UI community. She schedules every individual ride and driver, and also drives the bionic bus herself sometimes. This often requires her to work in excess of thirty hours per week, in addition to being a full-time student with a double major. She has somehow been on the Dean’s list the last two semesters, despite always putting her job responsibilities before her school work.

The reason she is a Hero Among Us, however, is because she often goes far above and beyond her job duties in an attempt to improve the lives of her handicapped passengers. The most recent example of her dedication occurred this past week. Jen learned one of her regular passengers was going to be spending Thanksgiving Day alone in his apartment. Ron is a physically handicapped gentleman of approximately my age who uses a wheelchair and depends on bionic bus rides to get around town. Jen invited Ron to join our family gathering at the home of Jen’s grandmother in Marion, Iowa. She told us earlier in the week how he was anxiously awaiting the big day. Jen brought Ron in her own car and Jen’s brother and I lifted his wheelchair up the steps into the house. Ron truly enjoyed spending the day with our family, playing with the dog, and of course, a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. I watched proudly as Jen fixed Ron’s plate, buttered his roll, and cut his turkey. I was most impressed the way Jen always seemed to know when Ron needed help without his asking, and also when he could do something by himself. This was certainly a special Thanksgiving Day and I will remember it for the rest of my life.

On the way back to Iowa City, Ron graciously remarked that he had not experienced a Thanksgiving like this for a very long time. I’m confident Ron would agree with me regarding Jen being a Hero Among Us. If Jen is selected to receive the basketball tickets, I’m sure she would try to bring Ron to a game, assuming his wheelchair could be accommodated. Thank you for your consideration.


Howard Samek (1977 BBA)

December 17, 2005
Iowa-Arizona State

Nominator: Hilary Warren
Hero: Ezra Warren

I consider my younger brother, Ezra Warren, a hero of the most extraordinary kind. He has always been the athlete of our family, he was involved in a lot of different sports, but his main love was basketball. He has played basketball since he was in first grade. He started playing on traveling teams in middle school, and made the high school team each year. He is now sixteen and a junior in High School. However, he is not playing basketball this year. In August of this year he suffered from an A.V.M. or atria ventricular malformation. Basically, one of the veins in his brain wasn’t healthy and ruptured unexpectedly which caused blood to flow throughout his head. Thanks to the miraculous work of the surgeons here at the University of Iowa, they fixed his problem with two major brain surgeries. After the surgeries were over, we realized that Ezra was not able to move the right side of his body. He was a little upset when he finally started to realize what happened, but his high hopes and determination pulled him through it. After months of intense physical and occupation therapy, he is now able to walk again! His strides are not yet as smooth as they used to be, but he is able to move on his own which is a miraculous accomplishment in such a short amount of time!

I believe that his progress through these short months is reason enough to call him a hero, but I think his attitude is the other reason why I consider him my hero. Before all of this happened, he was the comedian of the family. He was always cracking jokes and we could always depend on him to bring humor to any situation. After everything happened, I wasn’t sure if he would be the same, such a traumatic event can cause a change in anyone’s attitude or personality. However, my brother was already making the nurses laugh while he was still in the hospital. I think his amazing sense of humor helped him and his family get through the rough times. He is also incredibly determined and motivated which I think affected his quick recovery. He was determined to walk again, so while his friends were at school dances and football games, he was going to physical therapy everyday and even exercising while he was home. He amazes me everyday with his patience, determination, and faith. He was sure that things would get better, and they did. He is now living a fairly normal life. He is able to attend classes a for half of the day, he attends physical therapy, and he even finds time to coach a third and fourth grade YMCA basketball team with his friends.

I have always been close to my brother, so when he had the A.V.M., I was afraid that he would never be the same. I was scared because I thought that he would not be as brave and optimistic as he had always been. However, his amazing attitude pulled him through everything and has made him even more heroic and hopefully than ever. Some people are considered heroes because they climbed a mountain, others are heroes because they endured a marathon, others still are heroes for fighting battles in foreign lands. I believe that my brother is as heroic as any soldier, athlete, or mountaineer. He won a battle that he did not choose to fight in, he endured physical and mental challenges that I can not even fathom, and climbed his own mountain of recovery. For these reasons, I consider him a hero in every way possible which is why he should be recognized. Watching the game that he loves would be a wonderful gift for my younger brother, and sitting next to him and seeing him enjoy it would be a gift within itself. Please consider this letter because it comes from my heart. In my eyes, there is no one that deserves to be called a hero more than my brother, Ezra Warren.

December 3, 2005

Nominator: Jill Crall
Hero: Jordan McCoy

Fourteen-year old Jordan McCoy is the nominee I’d like you to recognize as a Hero Among Us. I teach 8th grade science at Albia Jr. High, and Jordan is a student in my class. Jordan’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer about 1 ½ years ago, and he has been incredibly supportive of his mother every step of the way. He has done everything from emptying and measuring the fluid from her drains after surgery to staying home from dances just to be near his mom. He even wears pink regularly to show support of his mom and her battle with breast cancer. Jordan is simply an amazing young man. He is a good student, extremely disciplined athlete, and just an exceptional young man. He has an amazing spirit.

Jordan truly cares about people and takes time to listen. My sister was diagnosed with cancer 2 months ago. Jordan and his family have been helpful to me as I try to cope with all of this. Jordan has brought me articles, a pink ornament for a Christmas tree, and asks me regularly about my sister. In fact, Jordan stopped me in the hallway yesterday and noticed my eyes were a little blood shot. He asked if everything was okay and I proceeded to tell him I had just received word that my sister’s scans came back clear and I was just overjoyed with good news and had a good cry. Jordan said, “Hey Mrs. Crall that is great. I can remember when my mom’s scan came back clear the first time and it’s just a great feeling. Things are just different now.”

Jordan is a Hero in my eyes because of the way he has taken it upon himself to take care of his mom. If you could choose a person for your son to emulate, Jordan would be a great choice. I know Jordan’s mom appreciates all he has done for her, and I appreciate the concern and support he has given me as my sister fights the same battle. I can’t think of a person more deserving of this honor as Jordan McCoy. Please consider Jordan and his family as guests of honor of the Hawkeyes at Carver.

December 2, 2005

Nominator: Ed Banfield
Hero: Buddy Cupples

Buddy and his wife were very active members of our church until she died of cancer earlier this year at a very young age. Buddy continues to be active and his strength during all they went through shows his true heroism. However, on November 10 he was thrust into a more public role of hero when he came upon a semi that had wrecked on I-80, dumping diesel all over. He radioed other truckers to block the interstate so others wouldn’t have an accident and he went into the spill and pulled the unconscious driver to safety. He put his personal safety aside and helped someone who needed it.

November 30, 2005
Iowa-North Carolina State

Nominator: Kelly Bridenstine
Hero: Cindy Yerington

Cindy is always doing for others. Some big examples are, Cindy found out about a little boy in Iraq who had a heart defect through her son Sergeant Corey Johnston, who is serving in Iraq. The boy’s older brother had already died of the same condition and without help so would he. Cindy worked very hard to find a way to bring the boy and his father here to have the University do the life saving surgery. The surgery was successful and after staying several months in their home they are safely back home. The boys’ father even stated he hopes to have another child, a daughter, and name her Cindy.

Cindy has been a big volunteer to start Treats for Troops. She also helped raise money so a West Liberty women dying of cancer could take her children to Disney World.

Cindy is a great person and I am lucky and proud to be able to call her a friend and she is also married to my cousin Scott. We could also be seen together cheering on the sidelines of the West Liberty football games this fall.

November 26, 2005
Iowa-Texas, San Antonio

Nominator: Jan Rodgers
Hero: Cameron Davis

My hero is my son-in-law, Cameron. He chose to work nights so he can be at home with his three children and not put them into daycare since his wife works during the day. He fixes meals, changes diapers, washes clothes and dishes, helps keep the house clean, especially when there is family coming for the kids’ birthdays, or holiday meals. He makes sure the kids, 7, 4, and 2, get to the library on a weekly basis, and play in the city park, during the summer. He is active in cub scouts with his oldest son, Caleb. He often takes the children to church on his own, when his wife, Dena, has to work on Sundays at the landscaping business where she is employed, and that is not an easy task with a two year old very active little girl, Sydney, who likes to keep up with her brothers, Cole, age 4, and Caleb. Then there are piano lessons, and soccer, t-ball, and school activities that can’t be missed, so Cameron will either go to work late, or take an evening off to enjoy these events with his family.

Cameron has constructed a mini barn on their acreage to house their two ponies, built a pond for their ducks, helps keep the landscaping looking great, and the trees watered, mows the lawn, helps with the flower beds and the mulching. He has refurbished an old shed for a garden shop, was given an unused log splitter which he has now overhauled so he could split wood for the used wood stove he had fitted into their gas furnace, built their two car garage, and has plans to finish the top for a “man’s world” room. And if he is “bored” when Dena is at work on a weekend, he will load all three kids up and go shopping!

In addition to his strong work ethic, high moral and family values, Cameron is a diehard Hawk fan, who lives with a wife that graduated from Iowa State, as did his brother-in-law, mother and father-in-law, several aunts and uncles in laws!! So he’s my hero, as he married into this family knowing we all support the Hawks, unless they are playing the Clones! He is a very special guy and I love him dearly.


Cameron Davis’ mother in law, who doesn’t view him as an in law, but a real son,

Jan Rodgers